Sunday, October 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo Mo Mo!

My inner lemming will be released on Tuesday. Bobby and Susie are jumping off the cliff, therefore so am I. November is National Novel Writing Month. Clap your hands and grab your keyboard. (Not you, Sis, relax. Stop reading this and get back to work.)

“But Auntie,” you say in bewilderment. “Haven’t you already written five unpublished novels? Didn’t you spend years agonizing over each one, not a mere month in which you lose a week to cooking Thanksgiving dinner?”

You are a honey pie to remember. Yes and no. The fifth novel was never finished, and I don’t have a complete copy of the fourth. It only takes four days to cook Thanksgiving dinner. But all that is beside the point.

NaNoWriMo is a phenomenon. I’m constantly amazed by the number of people to whom I’ve mentioned it who say they’ve either done it or will be doing it this year. After a lifetime of dogged individualism (insert bitch joke here) it’s time to try a bit of compliant conformity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably take the lazy way out. At the moment, I’m thinking of calling it “Therapy” and doing 1,667 stream of consciousness words a day. Because if I’ve learned nothing else about NaNoWriMo over the years, it’s that although lots of people write it, nobody ever reads it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Snappy Little Happy

What makes you happy? Don’t start with the whole “feeding the hungry, curing the sick, housing the homeless, world peace” thing unless those are on your To Do list for today – in which case may all the gods, all the saints, and that weird old lady in the park bless you. I’m being practical here.

What during the course of a reasonably ordinary day makes you happy? I have my guesses, based on intuition guided by experience. (Paraphrasing Rex Stout. Three extra smugness points to anyone who knows the actual reference even if you got it from TV rather than the wonderful books.) To wit: not waking up tired, no traffic, boss out of the office/no quizzes or tests, short line at lunch, etc. Am I close?

Well sure, I seem to hear you say, those are all good things but they’re no big deal. My dear, that’s the point. Capital H Happiness is a big deal, being happy isn’t. You can be quite happy with something as small as your favorite sandwich being the special of the day. (Okay, I’m writing this at lunchtime. Who guessed that already? Show of hands.) You can be delighted with making good time getting home because that interminable road work is finally over. There are so many things that can lift your spirits, almost as many as can pummel them down.

That’s the problem. At the end of the day we remember all the little things that went wrong. They pile up into a heap of discouragement and annoyance. The good little things evaporate on contact with open air. We smile quickly and drop it faster than a ripe organic peach will rot. Groans, moans and scowls have the shelf life of junk food. You see where I’m going with this.

Yep, you guessed it. I’m going right into the kitchen for something to eat. This will make me very happy indeed.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Was Casper A Perv?

I bought the book for the title, “Do Dead People Watch You Shower?”

Come on, tell the truth. Could you walk away from that? Besides, it was “buy two and get the third one free.” In this case, all three were the third one in spirit, which is the point behind the promotion. Chalk one up for brick and mortar.

Even with Halloween around the corner and despite the tragically large number of people I’ve lost in my lifetime, I’ve never really thought about ghosts. Wait. I had one as a character once, but other than her, no. If ghosts exist, do they watch us shower? It turns out the question isn’t rhetorical, but I’ll get to that.

I believe in ghosts in the same way I believe in Santa Claus: as a metaphor. We all have our ghosts. It might be the memory of a loved one, or an event in the distant past that shaped who we are and still reverberates now and then in our lives. Similarly, I defend my attachment to the spirit of good-natured generosity symbolized by the image of a fat guy in that silly red suit. I’ve never met anyone who embodies the ideal, but I refuse to bequeath the value the image represents. Given how often I’ve returned to lessons learned from people long gone, I suppose I could say the same thing about ghosts. Besides, ghosts are an undying (yuk yuk) part of popular culture.

Look at it another way. We’ve all had things happen to us that we can’t quite explain, or at least would prefer not to. That doesn’t mean the explanation doesn’t exist, we just don’t know what it is. I, for one, don’t care. Unless it happened to you, in which case I’m fascinated. No, that’s not facetious. Other people’s weirdness is always more interesting.

After sophomore year, who has time to think about metaphysics? The author of this book sure does. Then again, it’s her livelihood. Good for her. She answers the titular question fairly early on.

Yes, they do.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not My Table

I’m such a stickler for good manners, respect and politesse in general that it’s almost a relief when someone is over-the-top rude. That happened Sunday night. No offense taken, instead I got a story.

It’s a brand new restaurant. One expects a bungle or two. Still, one does not expect the young waitress to sing out loudly, “Somebody sure liked their salad!” just because I finished the mediocre little plate of leaves and dressing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

She was pretty, of course. It’s the law here. That’s fine, I’m used to pretty. But when I asked if a regular menu dish was vegetarian – something she should have known already, it’s a very limited menu -- she took three steps toward the kitchen, turned around, returned to the table and said, “I have to pick my battles with him, but I’m pretty sure it is.” I told her I wasn’t going to risk it. She said that was okay with her. How reassuring to know that it was okay with her that I had to order my second choice.

Later, after the salad incident, I suggested that the next time a customer asks a question she should either guess right away or at least pretend to ask the chef. All she’d have to do is go into the kitchen, come back, pick yes or no at random then say it with conviction. That’s what everybody else does. I told her I probably wouldn’t get sick until after I left the restaurant so she wouldn’t have to deal with it. I said all that with a friendly smile.

It went on. Textbook mistakes for the most part, a couple of creative ones. She asked if we wanted dessert. I said yes. She asked what we wanted then got visibly annoyed because we didn’t know what they had. How could we? It wasn’t on the menu, not that we still had menus at that point. Nor did she bring a dessert tray or a dessert menu. We couldn’t see into the kitchen. But she was irritated that we didn’t know what we wanted. Melva and I are both getting on in years, maybe we look psychic.

All in all, it was entertaining. And yes, I left a respectable tip. Either she’ll learn, which is fine, or she’ll stay a bad waitress, in which case she’ll need the extra couple of bucks to tide her over til her next job.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Poetry Emotion

One of my dirty little secrets is that I don’t like poetry. As dirty little secrets go, this one barely breaks my top 30, but there it is.

What is it about poetry that makes it so dull? It's got verve. There's imagery and all sorts of metaphors. Metaphors can be fun! And don't forget feeling. Poetry has feeling coming out the wazoo. There’s lots of stuff about the yearning of the soul. Maybe it’s the complacency of middle age, but my soul doesn’t yearn so much now. My soul mostly snorts, rolls over and goes back to sleep. Not a lot of poems about that sort of thing.

Poems aren’t real strong on plot or action. (Yeah, yeah, eddas and sagas and Homer, oh my. You know what I mean.) There hasn’t been much plot in the last few novels I read and I got through those. So what’s the deal?

Let’s be clear on this, I have a minor in English Lit and to this day I can quote Yeats and Coleridge and break down a quatrain like nobody’s business. When I play Boggle, I’m usually the only one in the room who sees “iamb”.

I like Brussels sprouts, but I don’t like poetry.

It was about time to get over my antipathy, so I thought I’d do it the easy way. I picked up “The Essential Rumi”. I used to know a bunch of Rumi. He’s lovely. Sufism and I go waaay back. It seemed like a logical place to start.

I got the book. I started reading the book. It’s interesting. I was doing okay. Then the mail came. The new cooking theory book was in it. Guess which I’m reading now. I’ll give you a hint: there’s more about Brussels sprouts than there is about yearning.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Cuppa Bon Mots

Coffee is good. It’s yummy. It fuels the brain, the body and the spirit. The downside is that it’s both toxic and addictive, but we only call toxic things addictive so that’s pretty redundant. (Don’t worry, your poo-poos – rather, the lack thereof --will tell you when you’ve gone too far.)

I love coffee.

Here’s my problem: my beautiful morning caffeine rush only lasts so long, ergo, I can fuel one activity. Usually it’s a workout, that’s body-fuel. Not today. Today it was spirit-fuel. I Got Things Done Around The House. There’s a shred of caffeine left for brain-fuel, and it needs must be allocated.

That’s why I call it “a cuppa bon mots”. There are only so many bon mots per caffeine rush. It burns out fast, and I’m left straining for a punch-line or an alternative phrasing. There are three different things I’m supposed to be working on right now. Which one gets the last drops of brain-fuel today before I succumb to the lassitude of heat and tedium?

None of them, of course. I wrote this instead.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

An Acer In The Hole

I haven’t been avoiding you. My increasingly temperamental computer finally held its breath until the screen turned black and stayed that way. Thanks to my complete lack of technical know-how, I lost a bunch of pix – most of which I have printed out -- and a few blog drafts. Big deal. I’ve lost more and worse before. I don’t have a complete copy of the best book I ever wrote. So, in the words of St. Augustine, fuck it. (This was during his earlier, Zoroastrian phase. Philosophy joke for me and Frac. And Pseudo, if she sees it.)

Starting over is interesting. I spent most of yesterday up to my crotch in denial. Today I am exhilarated by the prospect. No more picking at bits and pieces of material that you would have seen by now if it was funny. No more wondering what all those icons on the desktop do or mean. I’m like the youngest son of a youngest son, starting out with nothing but a pair of comfortable shoes to win a kingdom. That’s a good metaphor, because I kept my comfy old keyboard.

So take my hand and we’ll ride my trusty new Acer down the yellow brick blog road to a strange but familiar new world, dodging old topics and wielding vorpal clich├ęs in the face of the Jabberwocky of boredom. Yeeha!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Day In The Life

There are many worse things. Let me just say that right now. I don’t care how young you are, how entitled you are or how just plain lucky you’ve always been, you’ve had worse things come in the mail than a jury summons. We all have. That said, a summons sucks.

I spent an embarrassing amount of time prepping for jury duty, some of which was useful, though I didn’t need any of the witty voir dire rejoinders I came up with in the tub.

Don’t worry, I have stories anyhow. I almost made a friend. A very pleasant woman about my age complimented my foresight in bringing a crossword puzzle. You know me, I always have a few New York Times Sunday puzzles in my purse. So I gave her one. We would have bonded over our respective previous jury services except for one thing: She kept describing people by their race. The “Korean guy” had slept off a drunken binge in his car. A “young Oriental girl” was his attorney. It was kinda creepy. I found a seat in another part of the room after the break.

The good news is they let you do the orientation online now, which gives you an extra hour and a half to show up. But if you don’t do it, or if you show up late, they make you come back all over again. I watched that happen twice. And hooray! No one seems to have discovered my secret lunch place. A fellow juror put me onto it the last time I served. If you get summoned, I’ll tell you where it is. It’s easy and quite good, with nicer bathrooms than the courthouse.

The last 15 minutes are the worst. I was once called up right at 4:00, so I know it happens. My blood pressure went up at 3:45. Then they let us go, and I finished the book I brought with me on the train home. It sucked too, but it got me through the day.

P.S. If you haven’t taken the Metro in LA yet, you should. Consider that a public service announcement in lieu of a tag line.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hip, Hip And Away!

Last week I was at a club replete with hipsters. Seriously, there were four people over 40 in the room, and only 5 females including me and the MC. So you know there were lots of gratingly annoying mid-20s guys with weirdly perfect skin and clothing chosen carefully to indicate how little they care about clothes.

No one likes a hipster. It’s the new meta-insult. But do we know exactly what one is? I say, if they annoy me, they’re a hipster. Oh sure, there are a few universal hipster traits. One is their ferocious attachment to irony, which they’ve redefined to suit their convenience. Hipsters do the same stuff we do, but they do it ironically. Quite understandably, we all want to smack them for that.

Facial hair configurations, young women in hats – the list is endless, and problematic. Men have facial hair and it has to be configured somehow. Young women might wear a hat for a perfectly ordinary, non-ironic reason. We’re back at irony again. Ironic facial hair is hipster, same with ironic hats.

But why are we so annoyed? There have always been cool kids. Hipsters aren’t much more than self-proclaimed cool kids, which is as annoying at 27 or 37 as it was at 17. The self-proclaimed part is the problem.

You don’t get to decide if you’re cool or not. If you care, you’re not cool. You’re a hipster.