Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer Burn Out


42 days until I jet outta Baltimore City for five days in Key West. Yes, I am counting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Words and Things

I am currently reading three books. This is not uncommon.

The first is the current Book Club book, which happens to be "Sweet Valley Confidential." Say what you will; those of us who grew up on Francine Pascal's fairytale stories of blonde twins in Southern California were chomping at the bit for this latest incarnation which sees both girls in their late twenties, Jessica already married and divorced, Elizabeth living in New York City and working as an off-Broadway reviewer. The writing is absolutely, undeniably horrible. Jessica prefaces every sentence with "Like," and Pascal seems to have schooled herself in the Harlequin School of Literature when it comes to cliches and descriptions. The story is predictable, the characters laughable. But it's perfect summer reading because it plays on nostalgia and, well, it's completely brainless. The kind of thing you can easily process after a three-martini happy hour.

The second is Junot Diaz's "The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." And it is utterly fantastic; hands-down one of the best books I've read all year. This book has been following me around for years- literally. I was gifted a paperback copy, and it sat on my nightstand from 2008-2010. I finally donated it in a fit of ridding my life of things that made me feel like a failure: unread literature being chief among them. Almost immediately afterwards, Joel gifted me a second-hand hard copy of the book, and I decided that the Universe really wanted me to read it. It had come highly recommended, but for some reason it was just one of those books (like my copy of "A Moveable Feast" - another potential life failure on my part, unless I get cracking soon) that sat around and never got opened. Eschewed for a new Jane Green or the Book Club book I was supposed to begin three weeks ago.

The third is my lunch break book, "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. It's a delightful piece of nonfiction that I nibble away at in thirty-minute increments, when I don't have errands to run or have to work through lunch, that is. I embarked on my own Happiness Project a year or so ago, and now find clean delight in principles I'd come up with on my own that I see reflected in Rubin's research. Reading this book now is a reminder to return to the constant practice of those principals, for which I'm grateful. If I had tried to read this book in the past, I fear it would have struck me as preachy or, worse, unrealistic. But having carved my own path to some steady flow of happiness in my life has opened my mind to other peoples' journeys as well. Sure, I might have thought, Rubin has the resources to go about studying her own happiness: she's not a twenty-something bartender laid off from her freelance job due to the media outlet's pending bankruptcy. She probably even has luxuries like "health insurance" and a retirement plan. What audacious wealth! Those years are, blissfully, part of my past now. It's a little easier to contemplate happiness when you're involved in a job that brings you fulfillment, and living a lifestyle that blends much better with your personality.

I go back and forth on the subject of writing my own book. Part of me wholly believes that I lack the life skills and determination to come out with a solid body of work at this point, and part of me sees this as procrastination. The things I learned in my twenties could certainly fill a book, and a funny one at that, but humor requires a certain amount of distance from life experience. I am just now coming around to the idea that decisions I made at 22, 23, 24 are downright comical in how uninformed and dramatic they seem now. But to parse through all of that and come up with a solid plot line requires a little more tying together of loose ends; something that I'm still dealing with.

I will say, I am no fiction writer. Real life is too rich, too amazing, too eerily coincidental for me to make things up. Certainly, I see a definitive value in dressing up the truth as fiction (because, let's face it, I'm also a consummate over-exaggerator-slash-storyteller), and I have a feeling that at some point whatever work I come up with will be a curious blend of the two, if that's possible. I fiddle around with word choices, with story ideas, but nothing yet has compelled me to sit down and churn out a solid book.

I've been told multiple times to just compile all the emails I write for trivia and turn them into a book, but I fear that my audience would be...two hundred individuals living in or around Baltimore City. Which is nothing to sneeze at, but in terms of royalties...not ideal.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


There are days, like today, when I wake up, and suddenly realize that I have been living here for four years.

This may not sound like a legendary announcement.

Allow me to explain.

Routine. Alarm, gym, coffee, shower, throwing lunch in a bag, out the door, traffic, parking, rushing, booting, reading, answering, calling, reading, answering, calling, reading, answering, calling, meeting, eating, re-booting, reading, reading, reading, answering, answering, calling, meeting, meeting, reading, reading, traffic, parking, snack, cleaning, errands, dinner, reading, bed, STOP. REPEAT. You get caught up in this cycle.

Of course there are breaks. There are dinners, luxurious mornings of sleeping in, long runs, delicious treats, family, friends, boyfriend, cats, breakfasts, lunches, happy hours, films, books, festivals, travel. These are the things you remember the most, however, and the other days just seemed to get sucked into the tornado of routine, if it can be described as such.

The things I remember most are high highs and low lows. The everyday mundane tends to get swept under the rug, and it is moments like these that I am eternally grateful that I keep journals diligently. If not for this compulsion, we would all be devoid of gems such as this:

July 23, 2003
Denmark, Maine
Summer Job - camp counselor
2011 comments in italics

7:56am- Wake up.
8:00am - Breakfast. (Remember the days when you could wake up and be somewhere in four minutes? Like college. Strong prerequisite: not giving a shit what you look like when you roll in somewhere.)
9:00am - Stables, watched K8 (my nickname for one of my British friends, who is still a good friend of mine, and whom I still refer to as K8) ride new horse.
9:30am - Bunk inspections. Hadn't done them in over a week, but higher powers finally caught on and confronted me at breakfast. Foiled.
10:00am- Cleaned our room. Discovered beds are slightly more bearable with only one mattress instead of two. (Ahhhh, camp beds. For an entire summer, we lived on squishy, tissue-thin mattresses on military cots. With no air conditioning.) Got clean sheets for once - am tired of sleeping in own filth. (I went through a Bridget Jones-phase of writing in my journals. This lasted approximately four and a half years, and immensely entertained me.)
10:30am - Nap. Hungover from drinking in the C______ House (a run-down shack further down in the woods where all of the counselors snuck off to after the kids were asleep to drink Natty Lite and listen to music on someone's shitty boombox. Totally the stuff of horror movies.) Must make 34 costumes. Am very stressed. Solution - nap. I miss the cat. (I was in charge of costumes and set design for the camp's theater program. Sushi, who was only about a year old at the time, lived with my parents that summer. I think they still miss him.)

Someday...I shall post more journal entries. There is a statute of limitations in what I feel is appropriate to post, but I will admit that the Bridget Jones years are points of hilarity in a long history of melodramatic journal entries that read like Danielle Steele novels. (My mother once pointed out that my writing - MY EARLIER WRITING, I WOULD LIKE TO CLARIFY - was reminiscent of Danielle Steele. I am still not over this comment. I may need therapy.)

Journalling has been my constant compulsion. I once made Snap promise that, in the event of my untimely death, she was to immediately round up any and all journals in my estate (as if I have anything that would constitute an "estate" beyond a car lacking working shocks and two fairly brain-damaged cats) and lock them away. She - and only she - had full permission to weed through, decide what would be too humiliating for public visage, and post the remaining entries online. If she could find any that aren't too humiliating, that is. I have a tendency to...well...have literary diarrhea in my journals. Probably about that caliber of writing, too.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Conversation

Oh, Artscape.

Headed up for a few hours on Saturday, dropping out of the party every now and then to get some respite from the sun. And by "dropping out of the party," I mean "dropping into the bar/restaurant scene." Brewer's Art, City Cafe, Joss. A trifecta of Mt. Vernon perfection.

Honestly, though I know it pains thousands of hard-working artists to hear, the best part of Artscape has got to be the people. It is a coalition of every single archetype of character in Baltimore City, and I'd wager to throw in an "AND BEYOND!" there too. I spent the entire afternoon rubbernecking the attendees.

But, in what can only be described as 'freakish luck,' we happened upon a Puerto Rican gentleman who had been imbibing for the better part of the day (if not the better part of 2011, sounded like) who proceeded to explain to us why his (white and half-his-age) girlfriend (whom he loves with all his heart) tried to run him over with her car.

It was suggested without the slightest hint of braggadocio, without exaggeration, and just plain and straightforward: "My girlfriend, who I love with all my heart, tried to run me over with her car."


"She found a Russian in my shower."

This was most certainly a story we wanted to hear.

It turns out that said attempted vehicular manslaughter was the result of the girlfriend (whom he loves with all his heart) coming home and chancing upon a scenario that involved the makings of a romantic dinner and a girl (who was not, in fact, herself) taking a shower. Upon said discovery, the girlfriend (whom he loves with all his heart) stormed out of the apartment to the garage and attempted to peel away in a fit of (rightly attributed) anger, whereupon the gentleman (who was, at this point, being refused drinks by the clearly-perturbed bartender) inserted himself between the automobile and his girlfriend (whom he loves with all his heart)'s escape route and nearly found himself pancaked by the grief of the cheated-upon.

But why, we asked, was there a Russian girl in his shower?

Naturally, clearly, plainly, we did not understand the needs of this man. We could not conceive of the idea that he could love his girlfriend with all of his heart and still feel the need to stash away a Russian chick in his shower. And cook her dinner.

The two, he insisted, are separate issues.

Apparently it was common sense to him. Perhaps not to us. Or to his girlfriend (whom he loves with all his heart).

But even better than this story was the company he was keeping at the bar: a young, fete'd-out paaaaaarty boiiiii with the brightest blue color contacts I'd ever seen in my life, who was cruising the bartenders in between telling us stories of growing up in New York City proper ("Whatever, I have so shanked a bitch before and I'll do it again!") and his dog (who is, apparently a "ghetto Jack Russel terrier" with "his own wine tasting").

You cannot make these things up.

Oh, and there was some art and stuff. Culture and whatnot.