Sunday, December 14, 2008

25 Random Things About Me

Recently, a very dear playwright friend of mine posted a note on her Facebook page.

25 Random Things About Anne.

Except for item Number 9: “At one time, I did a lot of puppet shows. They were not very good.”---I was unaware of ANY of these things about her.

It was a wonderful little patchwork quilt of her life so far. I was so inspired; I decided to try a list of my own.

25 Random Things About Me

1. My great-grandfather was a riverboat gambler on the Mississippi. Before that, he rode in a D-List Jesse James-style gang with his brothers.

2. My first word was “Apple”. I didn’t want an apple. I wanted Apple Jacks.

3. In college, I once interviewed Metallica. They told me I was the only girl who’d ever interviewed them with her hair in pigtails.

4. I am part Native-American. A tiny part. But my great-grandmother was too ashamed of the ancestry to ever tell anyone which tribe. We suspect Cherokee.

5. I used to hate liver. Now I kind of like it.

6. A few years ago, I had a pet mouse named Bitty. When she got a tumor, I spent $500 at the vet having it removed. Two months later, it was back and I took her into the vet to have her put to sleep. That was another $50. They gave me a few minutes alone with her before the end. I petted her little head and cried. I still miss that little mouse.

7. The first time I played golf, I “chipped one in”.

8. I was potty-trained by being given a penny and a Smarty Candy every time I used the little potty. I used the money to buy a Snow White Sticker Fun Book.

9. Sometimes, when I’m happy, I have to go off to a quiet corner and jump up and down.

10. On my desk, I have a dead killer bee in a jar.

11. When I was little, people were always asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I decided I wanted to be a Saint.

12. My Mom and my Aunt taught me to sing harmony with them to Lennon Sisters albums.

13. My parents divorced when I was a baby. My father died when I was thirteen. The only time I remember seeing him was at his funeral.

14. No one makes better lentil soup than me. No one!!!

15. After I broke my jaw, I was on heavy doses of Percocet. My mind was all hazy and I was homesick for family and thinking of good times when I was a kid. Two weeks later, when I was feeling somewhat better, there was a knock on my door. It was the postman. He delivered a giant box filled with a dozen boxes of Frankenberry Cereal. I had completely forgotten that in my Percocet haze, I had ordered an entire case of it online.

16. At the Louvre, I almost knocked over a statue.

17. I was once in New Orleans during a hurricane. Not THE hurricane. The year before. It turned out to be just sprinkles.

18. My secret wish is to do an Apache Dance with Tom Waits.

19. In high school, I was habitually ten minutes late for school. If you were late, you had to go to the Principal’s Office and get an Admittance Slip from the secretary, Margie, explaining why. It got boring telling her, “I overslept”. So I would make up long stories about an elephant sitting on the car or a giant beanstalk growing in the driveway. Margie would listen to my stories and write on my Admittance Slip, “Beanstalk in Driveway.” Sr. Christine, my homeroom teacher, would read it and shake her head.

20. I once planned a party for fifty people---and forgot to show up.

21. Every month, I send money to a little boy in India thru Children International. His name is Sanju. My mother complains that it’s the only grandchild she’ll ever have.

22. I once had a fan. She was kind of weird.

23. When I’m depressed, I open a Microsoft Word program and write everything down. Once I’m finished, I delete it.

24. Once, a guy called me for a second date. I actually said that I couldn’t go out with him that night because I had to stay home and wash my hair. Had NO idea it was Bette Davis’ famous kiss-off line! I really did have to wash my hair. Needless to say, he never called again.

25. I love getting catalogs in the mail. It makes me feel pertinent. Pertinent is my favorite word. And if I’m not watching myself, I tend to spell “favorite” with the British spelling, “favourite”.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Geektown on YouTube

Who amongst us has not been sucked into the vortex of YouTube?

One minute you're watching your friend's latest short film, and next thing you know, it's four o'clock in the morning and you're watching footage of Klaus Kinski screaming obscenities in German in the middle of the Amazon jungle.

While many of my friends list MySpace and Facebook as their time wasters of choice---for me, it's YouTube.

At first, I was completely un-intrigued by the America's Stupidest Home Videos of cyberspace. I've always been of the mind that movie cameras are like guns---they should only be placed in the hands of professionals. Amateurs should be relegated to nothing more than muskets and Super 8 cameras---both weapons forcing them to actually THINK about what they're about to shoot.

Oh, you may disagree, but if I forced you to watch the entire four-hour version of my family's Christmas 1998 shot by my mother the first time she picked up a VHS camera (including the unedited 20 minute scene of two of my great-aunts playing a mechanical fishing game on my Aunt Suzie's kitchen table)---trust me, even Charlton Heston racked with Alzheimer's couldn't sit thru this Doctor Zhivago of home movies . "Oh, Pauline---you dropped that fish again. Oh well."

There's something to be said for the old Super 8 camera. One roll of film was not only slightly pricey, but it forced the home filmmaker to limit their shooting time to two and a half minutes per roll. There was no rewind and tape over. No sound. No fancy editing software. Hell, you were lucky if it was in color.

But this time and financial constraint forced home filmmakers to be judicious in their cinematic choices. Footage of an Easter Egg Hunt consisted of a few token shots of the little dolls carrying their baskets, with the cameraman hoping and praying he could get the Money Shot of Little Timmy actually finding an egg. However, no sooner did my Mother purchase a VHS camera, than she thrust it into my hands and forced me to shoot the ENTIRE egg hunt.

Yes, I DPed an Egg Hunt.

You will not find this on my resume. In fact, like many other great filmmakers, once I finished the film, I never looked at it again. For this reason alone, when I hear filmmakers like Woody Allen say that once Annie Hall was done, he never watched it again---I believe him. After all, I was present at that Egg Hunt. I put everything I had into making that Egg Hunt Film the best it could be. I have no desire to watch it again to add a Director's Commentary where I would describe how my mother kept saying, "Oh honey, get closer. Get closer."

"Mom. I'm using the zoom lens."

"Oh. Okay." And then, a few moments later, repeating---"But honey, move in closer."

Apparently, Mom had no idea of the concept of a Zoom Lens.

And how tight of a shot can you get on a plastic egg? Where's the drama there? For me, the drama was in the long shot. The Egg Hunt wasn't about the eggs, but about the journey. And I wasn't about to let any Money Mom ruin my artistic integrity. Yes, she may own the camera---but she didn't own my soul.

Needless to say, I resisted the Home Movies of the World on YouTube for quite some time. It was only recently, while doing some research for a project, that I kept stumbling across YouTube clips of vintage films.

I am, admittedly, a film geek.

And my geekiness goes all the way back to the silent days.

Sure, I watch modern films and try to keep up on the newest TV shows, music and general trends. But, let me put it this way, I was once sitting at a bar discussing silent comedies with comedian, Emo Philips. Emo, I was surprised to discover, was just as much of an old film geek as me. Another local comic tried to sit in on our conversation. And, to his credit, the guy held his own as we tossed out references to Chaplin, Keaton and even some Harold Lloyd stuff. But once we started geeking out on Chester Conklin, Ben Turpin and "those horrible Larry Semon comedies" (which Emo swore weren't all that bad and about which I respectfully disagreed)---the other comic grabbed his pint of beer and quietly slunk away. Later, he admitted that he had been "out of his league".

An hour later, as Emo and I continued discussing Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle comedies, Al St. John's pratfalls and the recent added musical score to Sherlock Jr. by Vince Giordano's Nighthawks Orchestra, Emo turned to me and said, "Wow. I've never met anyone who knew this much about silent film who wasn't a smelly, old guy."

Sadly, this is the highest compliment I've ever been paid.

But it's not just silent film. Oh no. My geekiness extends to things like ragtime and 1920s jazz, early talkies, old radio shows, and yes, vaudeville. I walk thru life with a brain packed-full of useless vaudeville trivia that NO ONE cares to hear about. And this is coming from a gal who runs into Joe Franklin on a regular basis. Not even Mr. Nostalgia Himself seems to recall much of this completely useless information.

I could literally write the Wikipedia entry on acts like The Hilton Sisters. No, not Paris and Nicky. I'm talking about the great vaudeville act of Daisy and Violet Hilton. The Hilton Sisters were most notably known for being conjoined twins. Their "mother" actually bought them from their real mother (an unmarried, British barmaid) and taught them how to sing, dance and play musical instruments in between regular beatings so she could make her fortune off their fate. Violet and Daisy were talented and pretty girls who were proud of the fact that they were not just a freak show, but were talents in their own right. In their early twenties, they finally sued their family and took control of their careers.

One of my favorite stories about them concerns a young Jack Benny. Benny had worked with them in vaudeville, and, several years later with a hugely successful national radio show under his belt, ran into them backstage at a theatre. They walked up and re-introduced themselves. Jack Benny, always the gentleman, spent a few moments reminiscing with them about old times. Towards the end of the conversation, Violet finally turned to Daisy and said, "See! I told you he'd remember us!"

One of my other favorite little tidbits about the Hilton Sisters was the fact that when they started to get the big time vaudeville gigs, Daisy decided to dye her hair blond---so people could tell them apart. Apparently one always being on the left and one always being on the right wasn't enough.

This is the sort of useless knowledge I walk around with ALL DAY!

And, oddly enough, in my small bits of spare time, I love to acquire more of this completely useless shit for my head. I don't know why this all appeals to me. It means absolutely nothing to my life. There is no one in my immediate circle with whom I would even bother to share any of this useless information. It's not like I'm eighty years old. This isn't nostalgia for me. It's just more crap floating around my brain that no one wants to hear about. And I am quite aware of this. People like Emo Philips notwithstanding, if I broke out into a long, full-blown conversation about F.W. Murnau's cinematography in the 1927 release Sunrise...most people would look at me like I was completely insane. I know this. I am in touch with my inner-geek. And, over the years, have learned how to keep it hidden from view. And yet, the search continues.

Lately, I find myself constantly stumbling across wonderful treasures on YouTube. Other geeks like myself have posted these tantalizing tidbits of esoteric lore. Everything from still photos to film clips to vintage recordings can be found on YouTube.

In the past month alone, I have found old 78 recordings of Fanny Brice, early talkie shorts with Eddie Cantor, vintage Lumiere Brothers films, the entire 1935 Tod Browning film Mark of the Vampire with Bela Lugosi, outtakes of Abbott and Costello with Lou Costello belting out swear words to throw off the romantic leading lady and amuse the crew, and even a small blip of footage of Harpo Marx actually speaking!

For geeks like me, YouTube can be a treasure trove of completely useless clips to bore your friends into acquaintances.

It's also a revelation. Because the simple fact that people out there are posting this material online and commenting on it on the YouTube boards means that I'm not alone. There are others out there like me who thrill at the discovery of an obscure clip of an old Merrie Melodies cartoon from the 1930s called Page Miss Glory---which was a parody of the recently released Marion Davies film that same year. People putting an inordinate amount of time and effort into carefully placing an old Billy Murray 78 record from 1909 onto their antique gramophone and having a digital camera nearby to record the momentous occasion of the turn-of-the-century's most popular Irish-American Singer as his voice goes from 1900 analog to 2000 digital and then up online for the entire world to see. On the wall behind the gramophone hangs a lithograph of the RCA dog barking into a Victrola.

What was the dog's name? Nipper. How do I know this? I have no fucking idea.

These people are geeks. And proud of it.

And then, within moments, their fellow geek friends immediately comment upon their post---thanking them for posting such an awesome, amazing piece of history and direct them to their YouTube page where they posted an even MORE obscure video of their gramophone playing a recording of some old Edison 78 recordings of marching bands from the late 1800s...

These people scare me.

The same way I was scared in high school when I was cast in a production of Camelot, enthusiastically read up on the Arthur legends and then suddenly, found myself face-to-face with members of the local chapter of The Society For Creative Anachronism who came to one of our rehearsals to show us what a Medieval Joust was really like. Sure, I enjoyed being knighted by the "King". But when one of the St. Louis Knights began telling me how he wanted to "die on the battlefield"...

Well, I hesitated to remind him that they were using plastic swords. As a Mid-Westerner, he would be more likely to die from the "Death By Chocolate" dessert at the Shoney's Restaurant down on the Interstate.

Yes, I may be a closeted geek; but to be considered a sane, social human being, some things need to remain hidden.

After all, don't all geeks want to hang with the cool kids?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Talk

They say that the difference between crazy and sane people is that the crazy people never think they’re crazy.

They also say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

Once a month, thoughts like these butt heads in my psyche and next thing you know, I’m sobbing over a long distance carrier commercial. Nothing in particular seems to be causing the interior commotion. Every horrid, self-defeating thought swirling round my brain juts to the forefront and seems to makes perfect sense. A quiet sets in. Pensive. Mournful. And always existential.

And then, at some point during this mental beating, a stray thought enters my brain. A vision, of sorts. Something resembling a calendar. I think back in my head to exactly four weeks ago and go, “Ooooohhhhhh…..”

THIS, my vaginally-challenged friends, is PMS.


Or Velkommen, as Kierkegaard would say.

It’s not quite so dramatic every month. Frankly, it depends on life’s little circumstances and just the overall force of that month’s surging hormones. For me, about twice a year, it can get pretty dramatic.

The stereotype of a PMS-infused woman is a complete ranting bitch. Me, not so much so. My PMS turns itself inward to break all that hell loose. The only victim of my hormones is me. In fact, I find myself particularly kind to others. Almost lovingly so. To the point where I detail out how wonderful they all are and how I’m not blaming them at all before I slip the virtual noose around my neck.

This month was one of the bad ones. It started last weekend when I decided that I just couldn’t make small talk anymore. During a particularly long train ride home, I had plenty of time to think. And after almost an hour sitting on the A Train, I calculated that approximately 95% of my daily speech is small talk. Being a waitress, this is part of the job. And being a waitress who works in an establishment where the vast majority of the staff and I have literally nothing in common---well, small talk eats up almost my entire day. And if I go nowhere but work and the corner store on a particular day---well, small talk then becomes 100% of the words coming out of my mouth. Even with friends (good friends, even) you’d be surprised how much small talk you make.

And if you don’t get much of an opportunity to see your friends…

Well, you suddenly feel like a human dispenser of vapid information.

As a waitress, my primary job function is to tend to the needs of strangers. Their food needs, to be exact. For approximately eight hours of my day, I have witty exchanges such as:

“What is the soup of the day?”

“Chicken noodle.”

“And the decaf---is it fresh?”

“I just made it myself a few minutes ago; so, yes.”

“Well, I’ll need a few more minutes. But can you bring me some lemon for my water?”

“Of course.”

Oh yeah, it’s practically The Algonquin Fucking Roundtable at my job.

And then there’s the staff. Nothing against the vast majority of the people I work with---but I just don’t have much in common with them. And frankly, they most likely think the same about me. I’m no good at talking sports. Have no desire to sit around praising Jesus and Yahweh and Allah for everything. And, while I have learned quite a lot of small talk in Spanish and Bengali, I certainly can’t have deep meaningful discussions in either of those languages.

So, what we’re left with, the vast majority of the time, is a small selection of choices. There’s company gossip. Some of which I will partake in, but most I just find uninteresting and bitchy. Then there are the two biggest subjects of my day---the weather and how busy it will be today.

This weekend, I called my Mom. She started out by asking how I was. This is a phrase I am now completely over. “How are you?” strangers in the restaurant ask me about fifty times a day. I always reply back, “Very well, thank you. Can I start you off with something to drink?”

These people don’t care how I am. If I started sobbing at the table and telling them about my lousy day, they would probably complain about their “bad waitress” and demand a complimentary round of drinks for their inconvenience. I know they don’t care. And they know I know they don’t care. So, already, we’re starting our temporal relationship off with a lie.

But that’s why we get paid the big waitress bucks---because the best of our profession put on our waitress masks like a Commedia dell’arte troupe. Plaster masks with rosy cheeks and big smiles and we utter the stock lines that have been handed down from our waitress ancestors for hundreds of years, “I’m very well, thank you. Can I start you off with something to drink?”

Only the nightly drink special changes.

So when my Mom uttered these words, it seemed to be the first time in days I’d been asked this question by someone who actually cared.

“I’m not okay,” I answered.

“Oh, honey---what’s wrong?”

“I…I just can’t talk about the weather anymore.”

My Mom, who is a grounded woman not prone to non sequiturs, nevertheless, answered back, “You can’t talk about the weather? Awww. Why not, honey?”

I’m sure she had no idea what her crazy daughter was talking about. But she’s Mom. And apparently, if you are a good Mom, you get your own Commedia mask---the caring, understanding face.

To this day, I don’t know if she quite understood. But she listened. And I know she cared.

I calculate that I spend approximately 20% of my speaking time discussing the weather. I discuss the weather with customers, with co-workers, with the guys at the corner bodega, with strangers and even with friends I run into on the street. It doesn’t help that it’s starting to get cold now. Everyone seems to want to talk about how cold it is. Scintillating.

Boy, it’s cold outside.
It was warm yesterday.
Tomorrow is going to be even colder.
It’s mostly the wind.
If it weren’t so windy, it wouldn’t seem as cold.
It feels cold enough to snow.
I wore my coat today because I knew it was going to be like this.
I guess I should be wearing a hat, but I just didn’t think of it.
They say that the weekend is going to rain and then the temperature will go up a bit during the day but it’s going to drop down to the forties at night then next week is going to be even colder because the earth is going to explode soon and then we’re all going to die and no one will be around to talk about the weather.


Yet, I continue to do it. Why? Because if someone mentioned the weather and I either ignored them or simply walked away, they would take offence. So I have to stand there discussing the wind chill for a solid five minutes of my life that I will never get back.

Do people REALLY want to talk about the weather? There are so many other more interesting things to talk about. Why talk about the weather?

A few years ago, while studying screenwriting with Tom Noonan, he offered his hypothesis that all human speech is designed to do one of two things: People either want you to get closer, or they want you to go further away.

I thought of Tom Noonan’s teaching this week as I listened to hours upon hours of testimony about the weather.

My conclusion: Tom Noonan was right---except when it comes to The Weather. Sometimes, people don’t care where you physically or mentally are, or where they physically or mentally want you to be---sometimes, they just want to hear the sound of their own voice. Even if that voice is just mindlessly uttering the weather report.

Or maybe, they just want SOMEONE there. It doesn’t have to be you. They just need someone there to hear their voice to convince themselves that they’re still alive.

Sure, I occasionally have a need to ask someone about the weather. A legitimate need to know. Do I bring an umbrella or not? We’ve all been in that metaphysical quagmire. But I ask, I get an answer, and then I move on with my life. If I stand there discussing the weather with you for ten whole fucking brain-numbing minutes of my life, YOU’RE the one discussing it. I’m just trying to be polite.

The second most-discussed topic of my day is how busy it will be.

People who work in restaurants will spend a good portion of their day discussing how busy or not busy the day will potentially be. Then, if it’s busy, they discuss WHY they think it’s busy or if it’s not busy, they will spend all that free time they have discussing why it’s NOT busy. This can go on for hours. Literally, hours.

It starts the moment you walk in the door.

“So, how was lunch?”

“Eh. Not so much. But that means that it will be busy for dinner.”

This seems to be some kind of unproven, yet Gospel, truth. And then, as half an hour goes by with no big rush, people start to hypothesize.

Oh, there are all sorts of reasons why we’re not busy.

The big game is on TV.
The debates are on TV.
The kids are going back to school next week.
It’s a Jewish Holiday.
It’s a Federal Holiday.
It’s the day AFTER a holiday.
It’s cold out.
It’s hot out.
It’s rainy out.
It’s not rainy out.
This week is always bad.
There’s no one on the street.
People are on vacation this week.
This is graduation week.
This is a big wedding week.
Stocks were up.
Stocks were down.
Everyone’s in the Hamptons this week.
Everyone’s downtown this week.
Everyone’s uptown this week.
There’s a convention.
The President is in town.
The Pope is in town.
There’s a street fair 26 blocks away and Batman Pt. 18 is opening and this is the week everyone takes their cats in to get spayed and neutered.


This will go on till close. Even after close, the staff will sit there counting their tips and still hypothesizing on why we had no business.

Do I join in these conversations? Yes. Because if I didn’t, I would be looked upon as an outsider. As much as pouring coffee, doing sidework and folding napkins---this banal exchange of chit-chat is part of my job.

Like a serial-killer blending in with society---if you’re going to survive, you have to fit in. So you put on another Commedia mask---that of Small Talk Making Co-Worker. And you utter tantalizing stock lines like, “Well, last Wednesday we were busy. But then, Madonna was in town and we had that party of 20 from the Ukraine that just walked in…”

Sometimes, I occasionally do walk away from these conversations. But when I do, I always get the sense that they suspect something’s “not quite right” with me. Frankly, I don’t understand how they can spend so much time discussing this topic without blowing their brains out---but that’s just me. Particularly, me on PMS.

By the way, these conversations do absolutely nothing to change or affect the amount of business either way. There’s no effort made to change anything. It’s just one long, tedious discussion over fate and what it is about (or not about) to deal us. Like living in a Beckett play with no curtain's end in sight.

A few days ago, as the PMS crept upon me, I began to question my existence. If I cannot effect change, I wondered, do I really exist? My friend Terry reminded me of Descartes, “I think; therefore, I am.”

But I never liked Descartes. When I read Discourse On Method, I was so infuriated with it that I looked up an old Philosophy Professor friend of mine to try to get him to clarify a few things.

Descartes was influential for his day in that he was a scientist and mathematician who brought the methods of science and math into philosophy. Discourse On Method was his attempt to get philosophers to reason their way to the philosophical questions of the day.

Reading the tome, however, takes a lot of energy. And a lot of caffeine. At one point, he goes on about the circulatory system for about 20 pages---all 20 pages designed to show you his method. But then, somewhere in there, he simply throws in, “Oh, but God just automatically exists.” Apparently, God was excused from his method. It was not long after this chapter that I was emailing good old Professor Swanson in Pennsylvania.

However, by my reasoning, God does exist. He (or perhaps the spirit of him in the faithful) effected change. So, even if he doesn’t exist, just the faith of his followers and the change they brought to the world prove his existence.

I, on the other hand…

It became like the reverse version of It’s a Wonderful Life. I needed an angel to turn up and show me what people’s lives would be like if I HAD existed.

My PMS doesn’t always take me to such depths. Generally, it lends itself more to a few tears during a Bette Davis weepie and a hankering for chocolate. This month, I doubted my existence. And no amount of walnut brownies was shaking me out of it.

Recently, I started attending a local reading series for writers. However, as a newbie, in order to meet people, you have to make a lot of (you guessed it) small talk. Luckily, I do have one friend there with whom I can have an actual conversation. This week, as I walked in and headed towards the bathroom, I ran into him and he said, “Hey! How are you?”

In full-blown PMS-mode, I kind of gave a little laugh and hung my head, “I’m just so tired of people asking how I am.”

He laughed and promised that he wouldn’t ask how I was anymore. I knew he didn’t actually get it; but at least I felt like he wouldn’t see me as an outsider for being fresh out of small talk for the day.

A few minutes later, we took our seats and the readings began. Lots of scenes from plays and screenplays and monologues all dealing with real things. Scenes of people having real conversations about things that actually meant something to the characters, the writers and even the actors. For two hours, I watched actors sitting in chairs; reading words off pages they’d just been handed a few minutes before.

They were the most fascinating conversations I’d heard all week.

Two hours later, it was over; and I found myself at the after-bar with the group.

A roomful of people engaging in small talk.

A lot of chitter-chatter. People trying to get laid. People promoting this thing they’re doing or that thing they’re working on. Some mindless political banter that no one (except one very drunk woman) seemed to really care about. A few stories. Some movie reviews. And, of course, the weather.

In the midst of all the small talk, I went outside for a cigarette to think.

Why do people waste so much of their lives making small talk about virtually nothing? What do they want from it?

To a certain extent, I understand the ritual of it all. Small talk is often a conversational dance in which the parties are trying to feel each other out. Can I trust her? Does he have anything remarkable to say? Are we significant to each other? Can we be friends?

Some small talk can also just be fun. An exercise of wit and a form of play with words, friendships and life.

And I can do the small talk. I can do the dance and the exercises. But, at a certain point, I need something more substantial. Not that I want to go around discussing deep, heavy thoughts all day long. But small talk is like candy---you can’t live on it.

But, in full-blown PMS mode and on the verge of non-existence, I was like a kid living off the contents of a Trick-or-Treat bag---I felt sick to my stomach. As more discussions about things no one really cared about spilled out onto the sidewalk, I began to make my getaway. Here I was, surrounded by seemingly intelligent people---and all they wanted to do was make small talk with each other. I could understand their making small talk with me. After all, I didn’t know too many people there. It’s understandable that I would be sent to the kiddie table for awhile. But with each other? Did these people actually KNOW one another? Care about each other? Did they have any idea what was going on in each other’s minds? Did it matter? To them? To each other? Was there anything going on inside their heads except basic human needs and small talk?

By the time I got home, I surmised that I didn’t exist.

By the next morning, I had full-blown cramps and suddenly realized why I had come to this deduction.

That’s the other thing about PMS---sometimes, you just forget what time of month it is. As soon as you realize it, you also realize that you’re not losing your mind, after all. All those imperfect (yet seemingly rational) thoughts suddenly become clearer. You now understand why. PMS. Oh.

The problem is, if you don’t realize this soon enough, the damage has already been done. Yeah, sure, it’s PMS; but, to paraphrase the Latin: In PMS veritas.

The damage was done. I knew it would take about a week to shake off the negative thoughts.

Currently, I’m two days out of my not-existing phase. But I still can’t make small talk. Today at work, I walked away from anyone engaging in such nefarious activities. I’m sure I was looked upon as an outsider. But, on the up side, I didn’t have to hear about the weather or why it was so slow tonight.

Luckily, my PMS only gets this bad about twice a year. I don’t think I could spend a fourth of my life not existing. Although, just existing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. I’ve always believed that the great wonder of the human race is that they strive for more than just existence.

But, if that’s the case---why do you all make so much damn small talk?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Art of Flirting

Before you think you’ve stumbled upon the mother lode…

I cannot flirt.

No flirting abilities whatsoever.

How I ever manage to garner the interest of men without this crucial skill is continually a mystery to my friends, my family and myself.

So if you’re looking for tips on how to snag that elusive mate---well, I suggest you Google Search elsewhere.

But I have a few theories. Ah---a single woman with theories! How astonishing. John Gielgud, take a bow.

First off---I firmly believe that a woman’s ability to flirt begins with her father. What man can refuse the request of an adorable little girl sitting on his lap? And when that little tyke puts her arms around him, smiles her cutest smile and says, “Please, Daddy---may I have that dolly?” Well, she not only gets the dolly, she learns an invaluable lesson: She learns how to flirt to get what she wants.

Unfortunately, my father disappeared from my life early on. My parents divorced. And he was never heard from again.

I suppose that might seem sad. But, from one who’s lived to tell the tale---you don’t miss something you never had.

And that’s the name of that tune.

Sure, there was an uncle. An uncle who, I was told, I could “wrap around my little finger”. But he was just an uncle.

An uncle won’t get you a dolly. Maybe some ice cream. Or the opportunity to watch Heidi when he’d rather be watching the Cardinals game. But for the big guns, like a dolly---I had to go to Mom.

And a girl can’t flirt with Mom.

A story my Mom loves to tell: One Saturday, like every middle-class kid, I sat watching Saturday morning cartoons; this particular morning, with my cousin, Ronnie. As the commercials came on, I paid careful attention to the ads for the latest toys. After every commercial, I looked to my Mom and said, “Mommy, will you buy me that?”

“Okay, honey,” my Mom replied.

Another commercial.

“Mommy, will you buy me that?”

“Sure, sweetie.”

This went on for about an hour before Ronnie finally looked to my mother in amazement and asked, “Are you really going to buy her all those toys?!?”

My mother smiled and said, “No, sweetie. But she won’t remember. I just tell her I will and she’s happy.”

And I was.

She told me what I wanted to hear, and then followed with a lack of commitment.

And they say every girl is searching for someone like her father!

For a request to be granted by Mom, I had to resort to reason. A skill at which, I am happy to say, I’m pretty adept.

But reason doesn’t work with men. You can’t reason a man into asking you out. Can’t say I ever tried it, personally. Just a hunch. But if you would like to spend a few experimental weeks of your life devoted to The Age of Reason---please report back and let me know how that works out for ya.

My second theory is that flirting is simply a matter of confidence.

A few weeks ago, while out with my friend Lauren, she saw someone from across a crowded room and immediately looked to us gals and said, with supreme confidence, “I WILL be dating him.”

And frankly, if this premonition doesn’t come to fruition, it will only be due to the fact that the gentleman in question faltered in some way and she will, in classic woman’s prerogative, change her mind.

When asked if I could quote Lauren on this bit of information, she emailed back, “…sure, use me as your flirt expert…just don’t make me look too flirtatious! Can’t have all those boys thinking they’re not my favorite!”

Spoken like a true flirt.

Lauren not only has confidence---she’s young, gorgeous, model-thin, amazingly smart, devastatingly sharp and funny, super-talented, and she’s just plain fun to be around. No wonder she has such confidence. In fact, for all you pretty young things thinking of coming to New York City to be an actress---this is your competition, ladies! If I were you, I’d think twice before I gave up my hometown beau and my $500 a month apartment.

As for myself, I have never uttered the words, “I WILL be dating him” in my entire life. In fact, I don’t think I’ve bothered to even utter the far more truthful words, “I WILL be pretending like I don’t notice and/or don’t particularly care for him for the next several months till he thinks there’s something wrong with me”.

No, I’m not a crazy broad. Just a little shy and a bit Annie Hall-type quirky. I was recently told by a friend that, “you need to see your lack of style as a style.”

And the confidence needle just breaks off and flies out the window.

However, all sundry, self-deprecating remarks aside---I AM pretty confident. And I DO tend to see my lack of style as a style. Call me crazy, but I like comfortable shoes. Nothing ruins my evening more than standing or walking around in uncomfortable footwear. I don’t enjoy wearing lots of make-up. In fact, I think the women who DO wear a ton of make-up are the ones lacking in confidence. And I like vintage clothes. No, not the baggy, Olsen Twins sort. And, really---those aren’t vintage clothes at all. Those are over-priced designer duds that even look ugly on 20 year-old, anorexic girls.

But when I walk into a room in my little black leather ballet flats with no Tammy Faye eye make-up and a J. Crew sweater I got for a dollar at a neighborhood thrift sale---I’m happy, comfortable, and pretty gosh darned confident. Barring my continued lack of success, I’m fairly confident as a writer. As for my social skills, well, I’m the perfect cocktail party guest---I’m witty and I like gin. And, currently, my friend Valerie is a little upset because the guys say I have a bigger booty than her. “That’s so unfair that a white girl has more booty than me!”

This confidence is not something that only comes from wisdom and age---I’ve always been like this. That’s why it’s called Style! Snap!

But with age and wisdom comes experience. This is why most women over the age of 28 develop something else---a super amazing bullshit detector. Yeah, it’s not the most feminine weapon to carry in your purse. But then, neither is mace. Unfortunately, sometimes both are necessary.

This is why, after exactly one and a half dates (yes, I only count the last one as a half)---that I’m throwing in the towel, once again. Dating is no way to get to know someone. And frankly, I don’t know why I agreed to these in the first place. But this seems to be my pattern. After a break-up, I go thru an appropriate mourning period, then plenty of Me Time, and then I go on exactly two dates (now downgraded to one and a half) before I realize how uninteresting it all is and then I just enjoy being single again. And then…across a crowded room…

So, with all this self-proclaimed confidence, why is it that I can’t find a decent…job?

Thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?

To be continued…

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Red Boots and Other Trivialities

Armed with the new “write shorter posts” mantra----I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. Because, to me, writing shorter posts means writing in here everyday.


The mere thought of this, as predicted, quickly descended into banality.

There was the whole idea I had yesterday of writing about my trusty red rain boots---how I love the little dears!

But that had to be squashed.

While ebullient ravings about my favorite Wellies would certainly fit the description of “short”---frankly, there’s not much drama in rubber boots. No matter how trusty, how red or how near and dear.

I did visit with a friend and see his lovely new place. But there was no plot to keep you dangling on the edge of your chair. Just a nice visit and a cup of tea and a long description of the sort of gorgeous place you can have for your very own in Manhattan for around two million dollars.

I did take my wet boots off before entering so as not to ruin the beautiful hardwood floors. But that’s more Emily Post than blog post.

I slept in. But I didn’t even have any sordid, analyzable, Jungian dreams.

In short---I have nothing to report.

And that’s the problem with this sort of blog.

For blogs that offer information or advice, there is always something to write about. The writer of a cooking blog can always make a quick jotting on the delicious smoked mussels pate they whipped up in haste. After all, you have to eat everyday. A news blogger always has news at their disposal. Little Salam Pax kept on blogging and blogging with no electricity, no internet and no media sources to speak of all while the bombs fell over Baghdad, god love him. And then there are blogs of profession like those Literary Agents who simply turn up at work in the morning, open their mail, and suddenly have a week’s worth of material at their snarky disposal.

But I’m just writing about my life. The little things that happen. Things I can take and make into bigger things worthy of a tale-to-be-told. And you don’t get a Beowulf out of goulashes. Although, if the hero did have a magic pair of red boots, I might actually attempt reading the wretched epic for the fourth try.

However, as a creative writer, I should be able to find something worthy of telling that occurs in my life on a daily basis. But it just seems so intrusive. It becomes more of a Dear Diary Dreadful. And frankly, I don’t like you people all that much.

Nothing personal.

I just don’t know you.

And I’m not so Internet-Deluded that I think you’re my friends.

Sure, a few of you are (and thanks for reading all three of you!). But even my friends don’t need this sort of daily update on my life. If they did, they most likely wouldn’t be my friends. They would be my stalkers. And I don’t invite my stalkers over for tea. They have to stand outside my window at least ten feet away. If you can smell the Earl Grey, you’re too close.

Therefore, while I faithfully vow to TRY to write shorter posts, I can not and WILL NOT blog everyday. Should I decide to start a daily blog on sensible footwear, I can promise that you faithful folks will be the first to which I provide a link. But until then, I stubbornly refuse to journal my daily life.

So, please get the paparazzi away from my building and keep the cameras and reporters away from my section at work and let me get on with my life.

However, if you must follow my every move, take all the pictures of my boots that you like---but my kitty is off-limits!

Friday, September 12, 2008

And Now, for Something Completely Different...

Oddly enough, despite all my complaints and excuses---I actually got something out of my posts last week. What, you may ask?

Shorter is better. Well, maybe.

While I’ve enjoyed playing around with the essay format for the past few months (and by no means do I think I’ve mastered it!)---maybe it’s time for me to switch things up a bit.

As a waitress (and a writer NOT currently submitting) I certainly have a bit of free time each day…

And while I still have loads of epic-like stories ready at the helm, maybe it’s time for me to tighten things up even more.

Of course, the danger there is a descent into minutiae. Fascinating blog posts with titles like” “Today I Bought Some Oranges”, “The Cute Thing My Cat Did”, “Just What I Need---Customers!” and the ever-popular “Laundry---Pts. 1, 2, 3, and 4”.

But I’m a game sort of a gal. Let’s give it a spin!

Today I continued reading The Portable Dorothy Parker on the train. The latter part of the book contains a sizeable amount of her theatre and book reviews. Now this is fun! Catty, snarky little Dorothy Parker writing in 1918 about the theatres in New York City that were closing shows due to fear of the Spanish influenza that killed thousands:

“If you are one of those who must ever go about the world finding good in everything, hold the thought that the Spanish influenza has helped many a play to make a graceful getaway.”

These days, she would have been fired for making such flip comments after a national tragedy.

Today, I shared this little tidbit with my friend Michael who attends pretty much every show on and off-Broadway. Last night, he went to Karen Finely’s show “commemorating” 9-11 at The Cutting Room in Chelsea. Apparently, Finley does a devastating take on Liza Minnelli’s re-emergence after 9-11 when she sang “New York, New York” all over town for months after.

“She had this huge comeback like she was a hero,” he railed. “Please! Liza does not get all dolled up for nothing!”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Week’s Worth of Excuses on Why I Couldn’t Write a Week’s Worth of Essays of 500 Words or Less (In 500 Words or Less)

Excuse #7: I Didn't Wanna Do It

No sooner did I declare my self-imposed challenge and hit “Publish Post”, than I began dreading the next day’s assignment.

Writing anything involves a certain amount of passion. And there was nothing I was feeling particularly passionate about enough to write a well-edited essay of 500 words or less---let alone one everyday for a week.

500 Words is an interesting number. It’s a standard length for magazine and newspaper work---generally about the length of a film review. It’s enough where you should have a beginning, a middle and an end---with plenty of space to strut your stuff within its confines.

But you can’t get too in-depth, either. No space for that. Word choice is key. No time to fob around with long descriptions of the director’s uninspiring chase scene when the word “flaccid” will do.

But passion is key.

When I began writing a blog, I didn’t do it to add to my writing workload. I did it to have a place to play around with ideas, words and thoughts I had no other bin in which to toss. In short, it was supposed to be fun.

The sudden challenge to write seven well-edited essays in 500 words or less just seemed like a whole lot of unnecessary work.

In fact, I wasn’t looking forward to this blog entry. I put it off for an extra day. I was dreading it like a grade school book report on Beowulf. Eugh, Beowulf.

But, in the end, you take a few moments in thought and you FIND the passion you need to get thru the next 500 words.

Writing is not always fun. Dorothy Parker famously said, “I like having written.” Not having read much of Parker’s work, I recently stumbled across a copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker---one of the free books that seem to turn up in my laundry room.

The funny thing is, I’m about 350 pages into it, and I see the passion---but I don’t always see great writing. Some of it’s brilliant. A lot of it is pretty banal.

Dorothy Parker was definitely a hired gun. Reading some of her short stories, you can actually see her trying to find the passion to complete the task. But a lot of the time, you can tell her heart’s not into it. It made me sad. Like a whore pretending to like her John---the John knows it’s all fake, he just doesn’t care.

Most of her stories just sit on the page. Flaccid.

No wonder she liked having written. Some of her Johns couldn’t get it up. She was simply looking forward to her post-editorial cigarette and the bedside cash.

As for me? Well, I’m a waitress. I’d write greeting cards if they paid my rent and got me away from Europeans who pretend not to understand the American custom of tipping. Of course, I’d prefer to write those Labors of Love that everyone gushes about. Even whores dream of finding love.

Word Count: 500 Words. I am good. Damn good.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Week’s Worth of Excuses on Why I Couldn’t Write a Week’s Worth of Essays of 500 Words or Less (In 500 Words or Less)

Excuse #6: That Whole “Well-Edited” Thing

One of the criteria I set for these essays was that they not only clock in at 500 Words or Less---they had to be well-edited.

Yes, I could certainly pull off the task if my JOB were to write 500 word essays. But that is not my job. My job is to wait tables 8-10 hours a day. And, despite the notebook I always have handy in my apron pocket, sitting down to write an essay at work would be frowned up. After all, they’re paying me a whole $4.35 an hour. They expect my absolute attention.

Back in the days when I interned at a weekly paper, there were all sorts of things that kept you on track---the first being that you went to work to WRITE. Wow. The wonder I continue to have for people who have jobs where they can actually go somewhere and be paid to WRITE is…well, it’s like looking at The Pyramids for the first time: How did they do that?

As an intern, I was often given time to write.

Suddenly, there you are. In front of a computer screen. You’re expected to come up with an original 50 word blurb describing a play opening next week. You haven’t seen the play. But you’ve got the press kit in front of you. You’ve got 20 minutes. GO!

As you strain to come up with words, busy editors scurry past, photographers rush in, phones ring, faxes spurt, and all manner of chaos surrounds your big moment to shine in 50 words or less.

But somehow, you do it. Because you HAVE to. You race your turbid words to your editor. As he begins to read, you wait to see the smile on his face as he spots your sparkling wit coming in around word thirty-three.

“Okay, this will work,” he says with a serious face. And then begins cutting, pasting and re-writing your carefully written 50-word blurb.

You feel like a failure. You can’t even write 50 words without help. But the more you write, the more you start to see what he’s doing. And the more you eventually are able to do it for yourself. But even your editor has an editor. The speed of the writing demands it.

All professional writers have editors. You can’t do without them. It’s like a surgeon trying to operate without nurses, residents and anesthesiologists.

I, on the other hand, am performing surgery without a license and in my own home. No nurses. No sterile instruments. Just me. And a few patients who need some adverbs removed.

Due to my primitive methods, I have but one thing to guarantee the operation’s success---time. Letting a piece of writing sit overnight (or a few days to a few weeks for longer works) is the only way to get the proper distance. Sure, in my case, there’s no potential for a medical lawsuit---but I like to think I’ve taken my own Hippocratic Oath: Write No Wrong.

Word Count: 500 Words. Prognosis Positive.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Week's Worth of Excuses On Why I Couldn't Write a Week's Worth of Essays of 500 Words or Less (In 500 Words or Less)

Excuse #5: My Social Life---Or Lack Thereof

Despite my rigorous 40-hour work week, and my constant output of words-to-paper---I do enjoy having a bit of a social life. If you want stuff to write about, you’ve got to get out of the garret every now and then.

After a particularly grueling break-up last year, I decided to take some time for myself. And just as I was getting back “out there” as they say…I fell and broke my jaw. Dating would have to wait.

Not that dating was something I was looking forward to. I’ve never been good at it. I never seem to know what actually qualifies as a date and have often found myself in a restaurant thinking, “Is this a date? Because I thought we were just eating?” It’s all very confusing.

Nevertheless, I have lately found myself being continually pursued by unwelcome advances. Everything from the Spanish guy in my neighborhood today who yelled out, “Hey sexy!”---to being cornered by Boring Man, who seems to have set his eyes upon me months ago.

Honestly, I have no idea why Boring Man keeps me on his radar. I have shown no interest in Boring Man. Yet Boring Man still keeps popping up.

I guess Boring Man is an okay-looking guy. One of my gay friends said, “Come on, I’d do him! I’d bet he’s got a huge one.”

And I’d bet it’s BORING!

Boring Man has many long, boring stories and is always boringly flattering. Still, I’m pleasant to Boring Man and politely make boring small talk. This alone, seemed to make Boring Man think we were dating. A while back, he became jealous of some of my male friends.

“Wow, those guys really seem to like you!” he said haughtily.

And Boring Man is Crazy.

So recently, when I encountered Boring Man, I could sense the dreaded Ask Out about to occur. Luckily, I was in a bit of a sour mood. And I suddenly discovered the Perfect Turn-Off to avoid the Ask Out---just act like The Most Miserable Woman in the World.

No man wants to ask out The Most Miserable Woman in the World! It was perfect! Oh, I hated everything! Everything was horrible! No boring topic he brought up could even begin to lighten my mood. I was determined to sound like the biggest bitch ever.

“But your hair looks nice. I really like how you changed it.”


I literally had to run away from Boring Man---seriously, RUN! What was wrong with this guy? It’s exhausting!

And that’s how I feel about dating in general.

I went on an actual date last week. Not with Boring Man. Someone else.


And there’s a date with another Someone Else next week. Found a killer new (used) skirt at a neighborhood thrift sale today. But I’m already dreading the small talk. I’m a waitress. I can only take so much of the small talk. Especially on my night off.

Oh well. The skirt’s nice.

Word Count: 497 Words.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Week's Worth of Excuses On Why I Couldn't Write a Week's Worth of Essays of 500 Words or Less (In 500 Words or Less)

Excuse #4: I Was Filing a Complaint Against My Boss

While not the sort of issue I’d generally bring up in either a blog, an interview or a first date---yes, I was busy filing a complaint against my boss.

Old Fish Eye has been my nemesis for months. Where he developed this long-standing dislike of me, I have no idea. The other two managers think I’m more than competent at my job and we all enjoy working together. But Fish Eye is a whole other kettle of…well, mal pescado. His behavior towards me and several other employees has bordered on harassment for months. A few quit. A few pretty much got their backbones removed. A few others decided to pretend they were his friend. And then, a small minority of us quietly rebelled.

Years ago, I heard someone say that their criterion for friends was: If we were in Germany during The Holocaust---could I trust them?

Yeah, it’s a pretty tough standard. But when you think about it and you look at your friends…well, you start to realize the shortcomings of the human race. Let alone your lame-ass friends.

Most people go thru their lives just trying to protect the status quo. This is what I have. I’ve earned it. Don’t touch it. And as long as you don’t touch it, most people will gladly give you whatever you want. This explains the appeal of the Republican Party.

But Old Fish Eye touched it. And kept touching it. And wouldn’t keep his hands off our own, carefully cultivated, status quo. Not only that, but he was doing things that I knew the main office would NOT be happy about. Frankly, we all knew it. And why no one spoke up about it before is beyond me. Apparently, none of these people would have had the moral fiber to hide Anne Frank. Or maybe they just didn’t have a Secret Annex.

But it’s a funny thing about power…men who are comfortable enough to abuse it also wind up being comfortable enough to fuck it all up.

Only the comfortable swimmers risk the deep waters. And the more comfortable he got, the more he fucked up. And fucked up to the point that I was able to take my serious complaints over his head. And, while big companies like a manager who’s a bit of a hard-ass---they certainly don’t like one who fucks up the way Old Fish Eye did.

Is the problem solved? No. But it does seem that my complaints are being looked into. And Old Fish Eye does seem to have calmed down a bit.

Was this fun? God no. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I put up with his behavior for MONTHS before I finally made a complaint. Frankly, I’ve got better things to do with my time.

But after it was over, I felt this tremendous sense of relief and realized the amount of stress I’d been under the past couple of months. And it really interfered with my writing.

Word Count: 500 Words. On the dot.

A Week's Worth of Excuses On Why I Couldn't Write a Week's Worth of Essays of 500 Words or Less (In 500 Words or Less)

Excuse #3: I Was Working on Other Things

Unlike some bloggers, this little blog is not all I write. Yes, I do try to do my best for these little pieces. But frankly, I didn’t spend all those years reading Chekov, Joyce and Gorky so I could become a better blogger.

This blog is way down on my list of priorities as a writer. Why? Because it’s A BLOG!!!

It’s like a writer spending all their time on their diary and not focusing on any real work. Which leads me to one of my Literary Hatreds: Anais Nin.

I am continually seeing this wretched woman paraded to the forefront of every feminist literary website by people who know virtually nothing about her.

I will enlighten. Anais Nin was supposedly the first female writer to explore female sexuality honestly and openly thru her diaries and short stories.

My opinion: Her writing stinks. It’s stilted, self-important, and (worst of all) boring. The so-called “female perspective” was really written mainly for the eyes of men for an "anonymous collector". Yes, it’s slightly more delicate than male pornographic writing---that was the whole catch behind hiring a female writer. Like amateur night in a titty bar---even men get bored with the raw. But the intended audience was always men.

The women who sing her praises, first---generally know nothing about her and have read little of her work. And second---especially enjoy singing her praises in front of…you guessed it…men. Drunk women in a bar discussing Anais Nin are one Cosmo away from French-kissing their best gal pal for attention.

For those of you still clinging to the myth: Anais Nin was a mentally unstable, cold-blooded narcissist. As for those “secret” diaries---well, they were not really all that secret. The woman carted her diaries around for YEARS trying to get someone with connections in publishing to read them. And, in those diaries, she detailed an affair she had with her father---no, not a childhood rape, not even a weird, one-time freak thing---an affair. With HER FATHER! You can read it in her diaries. And she writes about the break-up. Break-ups are uncomfortable enough without it being YOUR FATHER! I’m sorry, Dad. It’s not you, it’s me. As if the holidays weren’t awkward enough. Ick!!!

And then she discovered that she was pregnant and the baby either belonged to her therapist or HER FATHER and she decided to have an abortion. Now, I’m a feminist myself. And I’m certainly Pro-Choice. But I have never been as disgusted in my life as I was reading her nonchalant description of her abortion as if she were going out for a cup of tea. It was so cold. And all about her. Everything in her life was all about her. And she treated people horribly. I have never read a biography in my life where I just kept thinking, “Wow, I hope they die a horrible death.” And when she got a horrible cancer, I couldn’t help thinking there was some circle of karma in this world. She was a horrible, horrible person.

And a terrible writer.

And so am I. I went over my word count.

Word count: 524 Words

Just this once. I really hate Anais Nin.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Week's Worth of Excuses On Why I Couldn't Write a Week's Worth of Essays of 500 Words or Less (In 500 Words or Less)

Excuse #2: I’m Trying To Quit Smoking

Lest you think (due to my previous blog) that I’m living the life of Amy Winehouse up in here---I’m actually a pretty healthy gal. I eat right, exercise, drink in moderation, take vitamins, drink loads of tea and eat organic when possible.

Yes, I’ve been eating french fries more than I should. And sure, it’s that time of year when your friends want to go out for drinks to “catch up”. And then there is my love for bacon---mmmm, bacon.

But all of these things are within my control. Except the smoking. It’s my one truly bad habit. Yes, I have an addiction to books, tea and hot bubble baths---but these are happy addictions. The smoking---not so much so. Despite the fact that I’ve been told by non-smokers that if they could look as cool as me when they smoke, they might take up the habit…well, I don’t think it looks “cool” at all. At least, not on me. On James Dean, it’s still blazing hot. But he’s already dead, so he can smoke as much as he likes.

Why did I start smoking? Well, I blame it on a little thing called Brideshead Revisited. That damned Anthony Andrews in the PBS mini-series---He was so charming and so British as he sat with Jeremy Irons declaring that Turkish cigarettes went so well with strawberries. And I wanted to be charming, too. So I marched my fifteen year-old self into the local Tobacconists (yes, an actual Tobacconists) and asked the man for a tin of Turkish cigarettes. Now, when I was 21, I once passed for twelve years old. So I must have looked like a babe of about seven when I asked for the imported ones, please. The man didn’t blink.

It wasn’t until a week later, when my Mom bought some strawberries, that I gathered up the courage to try one. I waited till my Mom was at work, cracked open my bedroom window and lit one up.

They might have been delicious with strawberries----if one actually smoked. But I didn’t. I smoked about half the cigarette and ate all the strawberries.

Over the course of my high school years, if I were feeling a bit rebellious---I would light one up. But that tin of 10 cigarettes lasted me for over two years.

These days, a pack of cigarettes doesn’t last quite that long. And, more and more, I find that I need cigarettes to write.

I know this is all in my head. But taking a thoughtful drag off a cigarette does seem to clear away unnecessary adjectives. And does make me feel more like… Well, a writer---something you have to keep reminding yourself of when you feel more valued as a person who wears an apron and pours coffee.

But I’d prefer that my writing remind me of being a writer---not the cigarettes. I’m trying to quit. But it sure makes it hard to write.

Word Count: 497 Words

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Week's Worth of Excuses On Why I Couldn't Write a Week's Worth of Essays of 500 Words or Less (In 500 Words or Less)

Excuse #1: I Couldn't See.

Writers often describe the agony of staring at a blank page. But when you have an ulcer in your eye---staring at the 96 Point Super Bright White blank paper is actually physically painful.

And that’s just what happened to me.

Actually, a whole mess of things stepped in and interrupted my good intentions of writing a daily essay of 500 words or less.

And one of them was the fact that I literally COULD NOT see. After almost three days of walking around my apartment in the darkness like Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark, I finally got in to see the eye doctor.

Yes, the ulcer was back. But what was causing this strange behaviour that now appeared to be in both of my eyes? I suggested a possible allergy to my contact lens solution---after all, the problem went away entirely over the months I was wearing my glasses. But the eye doctor seems to think it unlikely. She simply replied that my eyes appeared to be suffocating behind the contact lenses. Hmmm. Okay. But why now?

She prescribed some more drops to put in my eyes and told me to come back in a week.

I was not satisfied with this answer for which I paid a hefty $15 copay. So, no sooner did I get home that night than I consulted Dr. Google.

Dr. Google is not always the most comforting physician. In the past, Dr. Google has led me to believe that I might have anything from scurvy to The Black Plague. And every symptom seems to lead to the possibility of some rare, incurable form of cancer. Dr. Google is the modern-day version of Dr. Roberts. Only when you’re down, he’ll bring you downer.

But in this particular case, Dr. Google simply led me to a virtual waiting room full of other red, dry, oxygen-deprived eyes like mine seeking answers online.

The good news? Dry eyes don’t seem to be a symptom of any form of rare, incurable eye cancer.

The bad news? Dr. Google advised that I seek the advice of a medical professional.

In the meantime, I began my own form of self-imposed care. I figured it this way---if my eyes are suffocating, then they just need more moisture and oxygen, right? So I took a long, hard look at my diet and lifestyle and tried to find the culprit.

What I discovered was a whole police line-up of scoundrels. Stress, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, fried foods, drinking, smoking, not exercising enough, caffeine use, pollutants in the air.

In short, I was possibly suffering from Oxidative Stress.

Yes, this is a “disease”; and yes, I took the Oxidative Stress Quiz on Google

So tomorrow, I will be presenting my medical theories to Dr. Eye and essentially saying to her, “Yeah, I know you went to medical school and have a degree and experience and a practice and everything. But I was on Google the other day…”

Word Count: 498 Words

Friday, August 15, 2008

On The Art of Over-Writing Into the Twelfth Night or What You Will

I overwrite.

I was about to begin this blog with a fun little paragraph about writers having certain specific problems as writers, or all professions having problems specific to their professions…

But that would be overwriting.

For those of you who only have acquaintance of my writing thru this blog---well, you have first-hand knowledge of this particular compositional malady.

However, in more professional outlets---I am far more cautious.

And far more editorial.

Some writers overwrite due to sheer repetition. Others, due to a little something called laziness (of which we all can occasionally be guilty).

As for me---I overwrite due to an insatiable quest to explore every single avenue, lane and rural route of a possibility on my chosen topic till I poison it, beat it and finally drag it to its watery death like a literary Rasputin.

In short, I don’t want to miss an opportunity to expound.

And frankly, who does?

Nevertheless, I think it high-time to state, for the record, that this little blog of mine is…well, a whole lot of exercises in public.


I do put quite a lot of thought into each and every blog entry. As a writer, it’s a nice little place I can go to explore my thoughts on things that I think about as I go thru my daily life. That’s why writers write in the first place. We’re communicating---in the way we feel most comfortable and the least misunderstood.

Once, in an acting class, the instructor was discussing auditions. He suggested to us actors that we think of our auditions as a gift that we’re leaving for directors, producers and agents.

“They may not open the gift while you remain in their presence;” he waxed on, “but the gift remains for them to open at their leisure.”

A few of the actors in the room beamed.

I thought it was pretty cheesy.

Frankly, as someone who’s done quite a bit of casting in her day, I can say from experience that any audition that doesn’t lead to at least a call-back is the next best thing to getting spam.

You won’t work. We don’t care. Thank you very much. Don’t call us... Etc. etc. etc.

But if any of The Seven Arts can be defined as a “gift”, I would say that writing is possibly the closest.

Something you leave on the page to be opened at the recipients’ leisure.

In Shakespeare’s case, some 400 years after leaving it on The Gift Table, but…

The problem is, MY literary gifts seem to be wrapped in several layers of wrapping paper and completely covered in heavy packing tape. And then, of course, there’s the charming box in a box in a box in a box thing going on.

Before the oft-mentioned “dear reader” even gets to the gem in the middle…well, they’re completely worn out and simply toss the gift aside like tube socks on Christmas morning.

Why would I give such a shitty gift?

Well, I love to write.

I’m the literary equivalent of that great-aunt who drags you over to her house and loads your car up with expired canned goods and mothball-scented clothes from 1972.

I just love giving.

A whole car load of unwanted junk.

Sure, you might find a nice pair of vintage woolen jodhpurs in the mix---but who has the time to go thru a car full of 30-gallon garbage bags full of clothes to get to a decent pair of jodhpurs?

I sure don’t.

And I’m a gal who would look quite fetching in a pair of jodhpurs.

But as much as I would love a photo of myself beside a sturdy horse looking all Marlene Dietrich in my jodhpurs---well, I have about as much spare time as you, “dear reader”.

And, by the way, I think the whole “dear reader” thing was growing whiskers back in the days of Thackeray---so if you’re still pulling that old chestnut out of your Runcible Bin… You really need to update your bookshelf.

What I’m trying to say in my over-written blog, exhausted reader, is that I am quite aware of my short-comings.

Or long-comings, as the case may be.

And, to that end, I faithfully vow that for the next week, I will prove to you that I can, indeed, write AND edit.

Yes, this may simply be a place for me to ruminate at length on the world around me…but I DO have a few editorial skills up my long, puffy, pirate shirt sleeves.

I vow, for the next week, that I will write a column every day in 500 words or less.

Yes, believe it or not, I can write less.


Saturday, August 9, 2008


After a horrid encounter with MySpace almost a year ago (see a previous blog) at the insistence of a few friends, I finally decided to join the Facebook Community.

My friends explained it thusly:

Facebook is different.
It’s just your friends.
It’s not creepy pedophiles.
It’s private and secure.
It’s simple to set up.
It doesn’t ask you a hundred questions.
Get on Facebook!
You’ll love Facebook!

My friend Lauren was especially effusive. “I think you’ll really like Facebook,” she had said earlier that week when we were out on the town. “It’s just your friends and it’s really FUN!”

Well, I’ve been on Facebook for a week now and I’m still waiting for the fun.

In any case, for those of you not on Facebook, here’s the lowdown: You quickly set up an account with your email address, insert a few pertinent details about yourself (name, birth date, location) and that’s pretty much it. You can throw a photo in there, if you like. But within moments, you’re all set up and can begin looking for people who are already your friends to own up to being, indeed, your actual friend in a public forum.

So last week, once I got set up, I spent a few hours online trolling for my friends.

It felt kind of creepy. Like I was stalking my friends. But I did manage to find a few of them on Facebook and clicked the “Add as Friend” button next to their names in the hope that they still like me.

The next morning, I woke up bright and early; made a cup of coffee and sat down to my computer all excited to see all my new Facebook Friends.

I had four. Four. I had the sum total of four Facebook Friends. Kind of sad, really. I started to wonder if I’d done something to piss my friends off. I tend to think of myself as a pretty “low-maintenance” kind of friend---but maybe not. Maybe my friends think otherwise. Maybe they’ve all banded together on their collective Facebook pages and mutually decided to shun my Facebook Friend advances.

What could I have done wrong?

Sure, I can sometimes get a little crazy with the emails to my actor friends when I’m working on a project.

Still wondering if you’re going to be able to make that rehearsal. Haven’t heard anything yet. Sorry to be such a pest. Just trying to make the schedule. Have a nice day. Call me.

But only four? Where were all my so-called friends?

It’s a funny thing---you go your entire life thinking that you have loads of friends. But when they suddenly don’t click on you as a Facebook Friend---well, you start to get a little worried. The first 24 hours, I was practically glued to the computer waiting for my so-called friends to own up to knowing me. As they seemed to be a little too busy with their fabulous lives to make a simple click, I started looking around for some other friends. Maybe I needed to look up some old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Happily, I found quite a few of them on Facebook. I clicked on the embarrassing, “Be My Friend” button and waited some more.

While trolling for friends on Facebook, I noticed that some people seem to have hundreds (even thousands) of Facebook Friends. Are these people REALLY their friends? And what makes a Facebook Friend? I needed a qualifier. Some kind of barometer here. And no sappy quote in a Hallmark card was going to help with this particular definition.

After a lot of careful thought and deliberation, I decided that the qualifier was, “Yeah---but would they help me move?”

Okay, maybe they might not be able to actually help me move---they might be out of town, have back problems, or just be classified in that bunch of good (but lazy) friends that we all seem to have. But at least, if they got a message on their Facebook page, they wouldn’t be sitting there going, “Who is this chick asking me to help her move?”

And, may I say, the qualifier came in handy. For no sooner did I get set up on Facebook, than I began to get Friend Requests.

“Joe Stranger would like to be your friend. Would you like to confirm him as your friend?”

Well, I don’t know Joe Stranger. At least, I don’t think I do. Though I will admit to being extremely bad with both names and faces. Aware of this, I always try to be accommodating.

A few years ago, I got a phone call on a Sunday night. The guy asked for me by name. I confirmed that it was indeed me on the phone and then he replied, “Hey! It’s Mike! Do you have a Blockbuster card?”


“Great! Can I use it?”


“Okay, I’ll be by in a few minutes.”


It was only after I hung up the phone that I thought, “Who’s Mike? And why does he need my Blockbuster card?”

There was my friend Michael, from work. But he went by Michael. And I was sure he had his own Blockbuster card.

Nevertheless, some guy named Mike was going to be by any minute now to pick up my Blockbuster card.

I guess I’d better tidy up.

Over the next ten minutes as I was picking up dirty clothes from the bathroom floor and putting dirty dishes into the sink, I realized that I was possibly cleaning up for a serial killer.

It was my Mother’s Two Mantras butting heads: Don’t Let Strangers in the House --- VS --- Make Sure the House is Clean.

In any case, when they found my body, the CSI team would not find a messy apartment.

But there was no time to think about last phone calls to loved ones or laying out enough cat food so kitty wouldn’t have to resort to nibbling at my corpse. As the last dirty dish hit the sink, there was a knock on my door.

I opened the door to find my friends Mike and Jay---musician friends from back home who’d come to town to record their new CD.

“Oh!” I let out a sigh of relief. “It’s YOU GUYS!”

They both immediately laughed and Mike said, “See---I told you she didn’t know who it was!”

“Why are you opening your door for strangers?!?” Jay chastised.

But I’m a little bit older and wiser now. And I had no intention of opening my Facebook door for strangers.

Meanwhile, quite a few of my actual friends didn’t seem to want to open their Facebook door for me. Including my friend Lauren who’d been so enthusiastic about Facebook to begin with. I’d sent her an invitation to be my friend almost a week before and still no response. What could I have done?

Well, I did give her a script the last time I saw her. And there was a part for her in the script. Maybe she hated it? Maybe she didn’t want to do the role and didn’t want to have to tell me? Maybe she figured that if she ignored my Facebook invite, I would get the hint and stop bothering her to do parts in my little films?

This was not good. I was now losing a potential Facebook Friend because I wrote a shitty script. Something had to be done.

I sent her a text.

Hey---if u don’t like the script or don’t want 2 do it just let me know. Don’t feel bad about it. I can take it!

While racking my brain over some possible re-writes, I received a text back from Lauren saying that she DID want to do it and DID like it and she’s just been busy but will free up soon.

However, two more days went by before she confirmed that I was indeed her Facebook Friend. Hmmm.

By this time, I began to suspect that Facebook wasn’t going to be as “fun” as Lauren had promised it would be. I was starting to think that Facebook was a little boring. And, once Lauren finally confirmed me as her Facebook Friend, I went to her Facebook page and asked a question on her Facebook Wall:

Okay, you said this facebook thing was fun. Where's the fun? This just seems like more work to me. Am I doing this wrong? I don't seem to be finding the fun.

But I haven’t heard back yet. Because frankly, I suspect, that Lauren is out actually HAVING FUN. I’m sure she finds Facebook “fun” in its own little way. But I’m almost certain that she finds actually going out with her friends to be way more fun than sitting in front of a computer looking at pictures of them.

I know I would. This sucked.

I sent a text to my friend Nina, who had not only immediately confirmed me as her Facebook Friend, but also invited me to be one of her Facebook Best Friends.

I’m already bored with facebook. What’s the big deal?

And, being a Facebook Best Friend, she immediately texted me back.

Yeah---facebook is not very exciting.


It was a huge relief to discover that I was not the only one who found this utterly boring. And a lot of extra work, I might add. Because by now, I was not only getting friend requests---I was also getting invitations to play games with my friends, invitations to write testimonials about my friends, invitations to poke my friends, send gifts to my friends, take their movie quizzes, tag them in pictures, listen to their favourite songs, rank them, rate them, hug them, love them, FOR GODSAKES LOVE YOUR FRIENDS! LOVE THEM!!!

It’s exhausting.

I spend far too much time in front of my computer as it is just writing. Honestly, I don’t have the time to rate their “hotness” potential. And, by the way---unless it’s all as a goof---it just seems a little weird to me. After all, let’s say you’re my friend. Let’s say you just helped me move. And now I’ve got to tell you that I think you’re way down at number 32 on the Hot Body List. Just doesn’t seem right. But thanks for helping me move! Help yourself to a slice of pizza and a beer. Sorry about your body.

Meanwhile, the friend requests just kept pouring in.

Who were these people? Did I actually know them?

Many of these people were listed as having X amount of friends in common with me? One friend’s name seemed to crop up the most---my Facebook Best Friend Nina. Last night, I gave her a call.

“Okay, I’m having a problem with this Facebook thing. I’m getting all these friend requests and I don’t think I know these people but a lot of them say they know you. Do you actually know any of these people? Or do I actually know any of these people?”

I began to go down the list.

A few of them were comics. Nina works in a comedy club and knows quite a few comics---many of whom seem to be trolling for fans more than friends. Nothing wrong with a little self-promotion, I suppose. But what if you’re not funny? And what if I don’t find this out till after I make you my friend? And sure, you might be a nice guy and all (even if you’re not funny) but I don’t know you well enough to be your friend and I haven’t seen you perform so I’m not your fan. So where are we then, hmmm? Are you at least helping me move? Or maybe a ride to the airport? You gotta gimmie something to work with here.

One Friend Request, Nina reminded me that I actually did know---though I’d only known her by her nickname, hence the confusion. Okay, she could be my Facebook Friend.

Then there was a guy she thought I knew.

“You remember him.”


“Does he have a picture up?”

Yeah. There’s a picture.

“And you don’t recognize him?”

No. Was he there when I worked there?

”I think so. Nothing about him looks familiar?”


“Well, you don’t have to make him your friend if you don’t want.”

Would he help me move?

“Probably not.”

Then no.
But later I remembered him and made him my friend. I guess I could let that one slide.

And then there's the mysterious Party Guy. Unlike the other friend requests, Party Guy and I have NO friends in common. Yet, he still sent me a picture of himself wearing sunglasses, with his shirt off, a tattoo on his chest, and standing all cocky beside a pool with a beer in one hand and a thumbs-up in the other. Who was this guy? And how did he find me? And why on God’s Green Earth would he want to be my friend? What could we possibly have in common? Sure, he might help me move---but he’s in California. That’s no good to me. Unless I were moving to California. But even then…I don’t know him from a bird. Would I really trust him with the box marked, "78 Records. Careful. Very fragile"?

Okay, let’s say that I click on one of these strangers and suddenly make them my friend---what’s that going to do for me? I’m buying some bookcases from Ikea soon---can I just suddenly put a message on Joe Stranger's wall saying, “Good news! Bookcases arrived! Need help putting them together! See you tomorrow at noon!”

And even if Joe Stranger WOULD help me put my bookcases together, do I really want to let him into my home? Do I want to invite Joe Stranger to my Birthday Party? Joe Stranger may be a perfectly nice fellow---but how will he know what sort of gift I like?

What if Joe Stranger turns out to be a serial killer. The local news will immediately go to his Facebook Page and look for his friends. I’ll start getting calls from the media. My phone will be ringing off the hook and I’ll be forced to answer questions like, “Did you have any indication that Joe Stranger was a psychopath?”

“Well, he seemed really nice on Facebook. Sent me a Growing Flowerpot on my birthday. Not exactly what I wanted, but…”

Or worse, he turns out to be one of those Unabomber-type people. And then I’ll not only have the media, but the FBI on my tail. I will be pretty pissed if clicking Joe Stranger as a Friend turns into six months from now my having to take a few days off work to answer FBI questions in a small room under a bright light.

Oh, you may laugh---but a few years ago, a good friend of mine rented a truck.

A few months later, she was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

Unfortunately, she had the same taste in rental trucks as the Oklahoma City Bomber. Her name came up on a list of renters of that particular model and next thing you know, she’s got FBI Agents at her door. Originally, she thought it was a joke. She worked in a comedy club and knows a ton of comics who literally have nothing better to do than to fabricate elaborate practical jokes. But this was not another one of Doug Stanhope’s prank phone calls. This was the FBI. And these agents were not smiling.

Of course, once they met and spoke with her, they seemed to realize that she was most likely not the Oklahoma City Bomber.

Most likely, that is...

Because for the next several years, she had problems with everything related to local and national government. Her name had somehow gotten on watch lists all across the country.

In fact, it was only three years ago that the FBI informed her that she was officially OFF the Watch List. Currently, she’s still having trouble getting her US Passport renewed---and she knows why. So you'll pardon me if I'm a little selective with my Facebook Friends. I would like to go to Malta this fall, thank you very much.

As of right now, I have exactly 43 friends on Facebook. But there are quite a lot of friend requests I’m still waiting on.

Over the past week, I’ve been a little paranoid about a few of these dangling requests. Sure, there’s always the potential that my friend Alain back in Minneapolis won’t immediately remember me from so long ago (even though he actually DID help me move once). And sure, there’s the possibility that my ex-boyfriend might not be comfortable having me appear on his Facebook Friends list (even though we actually ARE still friends and chatted merrily just two weeks ago).

But I’m not worrying anymore. Because most likely, these people find Facebook as boring as I do. And I’m actually starting to respect the fact that I have NOT heard from them. Because they’re out there actually enjoying the company of their friends live and in person.

However, the other day, my Facebook Best Friend, Nina, wrote on my Facebook wall:

I figured if I wrote something on your wall, you'd get all excited when you checked your email and saw that you had a new message posted, and you'd be all like, "Aww, facebook, you're not so boring after all". That's what BEST FRIENDS do. The others...not really your friends.

I still think Facebook is boring. And I still don’t see what the fuss is all about. But it is nice to know that I have a group of people all gathered in one place for the next time I move. Except Nina---she’s helped me move so much that she has been given a Lifetime Exemption from ever having to move me again.

And that’s the difference between a Real Friend and a Facebook Friend---Real Friends never have to help you move again.

The rest of you---I’ll be writing on your walls when my lease expires in 2010. See you then!