Shooting My Writer’s Block in The Face

Isn’t it funny how the longer you put off something, the more-petrifying it is to pick it back up? Continue reading


Leash Laws: Into the Wild in Alabama

One of the most obvious differences between life in Orlando and Northern Alabama is the wildlife. It’s not that Orlando was an asphalt wasteland devoid of life that wasn’t in a Mickey costume. I saw lots of wildlife. I saw it dead on the highway all the time, a menagerie of squished armadillos, various cranes that had taken a wrong turn at Tampa, and assorted flattened groundhogs. It was somewhat troubling that I’d never seen any of these creatures alive, but if you’ve ever driven in Florida for any length of time, you know that the odds of survival are against you as soon as you put a toe on the interstate.

My neighborhood in Alabama is brimming with creatures – and few of them are dead! We have the typical kamikaze squirrels, but we also have possums, raccoons, coyotes, deer, rabbits, and foxes. Our house is pressed tight against the woods, and the contents of the wild often spill out onto our property. The tall, green trees look nothing like the stunted palms of Central Florida. When I close my eyes and breathe, I smell sap, honeysuckle, and undergrowth – not the exhaust, dust, and waffle cones of the Magic Kingdom parking lot.

One other note about animals in Alabama? There are no leash laws.

This seems a minor point at first. If you’ve never lived in a place without leash laws, you just assume that everyone keeps their dogs and cats or whatever in a fenced yard. This is optimistic, but it’s not the least bit truthful. Dogs roam in packs over my neighborhood, and while they’re (currently) all friendly, it can be a little overwhelming if you’re not expecting to have five other canine joggers with you as you do your evening run. When I was little, a less-kind dog pack roamed, and selling raffle tickets to the neighbors became something of a life-or-death situation as I torpedoed from the safe zone of a front porch to another, hoping to avoid the snap of canine jaws. It’s something to think about before you let Chester the Cat outside. And don’t get me started on the exotic birds.

Exotic birds? you ask. In Alabama? Well, yes. One of my neighbors collected them. Peacocks, emus, and guinea fowl. When he died, they roamed around the neighborhood for years; it wasn’t unusual to look out the window and see a peacock staring back at you, willing you to throw a piece of bread outside. When I learned to drive, emus chased the Volkswagen, pecking at the tires and flapping their useless wings. And guinea fowl? Are the stupidest creatures alive. They run straight into the car every time (I may or may not be lingering under the guilt of having hit a few in my earlier days).

There was also a beautiful parrot who was sometimes allowed to fly around the neighborhood. His owners assured us that he was totally fine and always flew home. He had the uncomfortable habit of looking in and squawking “touchdown!” whenever an actress on television took off her top.

So no, I didn’t have any of that in Orlando. I kind of missed it.

On Accumulating Stuff and My Zen Thoughts of the Day.

This weekend was a dust-covered, sweaty, mash-your-fingers-in-a-door-jam mess. The insurance company delivered about 30 cardboard boxes of cleaned items that had been pulled from our collapsing house last July.  There was a satisfaction in prying open box after box to uncover belongings that survived the fire (or… sort of… survived the fire), but there was also a lot of amused frustration.  “That damn painting,” I said as I pulled a truly crappy oil painting I’d done in high school from the box.  “Why the hell did this piece of shit not catch fire but our photos did?”

Mom had the same reaction to being reunited with her boxes of her fine china. “I was hoping these had broken!” she whined, pulling out a twee-looking teacup from the 1950s.  “We never used them.”

So now we’re planning an Ebay excursion. It’s not that this stuff isn’t treasured, in its own way: it’s that we’ve gone without it for nine months and forgot it existed. That’s how unimportant it is to us in the grand scale. She will mourn her Zuni pottery, and I’ll think fondly of my Playstation (may it rest in peace), but there is so much stuff that we’d collected along the way that we didn’t care about. It’s not really until you lose nearly everything that you realize how irrelevant most of it is.

On the plus side, I’m inheriting some of the extras for my new apartment. Uncaring that the sets don’t all have the same number of settings, I’m receiving a gorgeous set of crystal wine glasses, champagne glasses, and sniffers. That way when I veg out on the couch watching old episodes of House I can drink in semi-alcoholic style.

I guess what I’m saying is that no matter how much or how little you have, it’s easy to part with some fraction. Get rid of old things, and breathe a little larger.

Just don’t get rid of it with a house fire, because that’s ass.

My First Kiss and the Circumstances Therein

I don’t tend to believe in omens, but my first kiss was so bizarre that I’m inclined to consider it the preview to a love life so weird that Tim Burton would make a movie of it. First kisses come in two flavors: Hollywood and Reality. First kisses in Hollywood are usually sweet, strange little learning totems in which bittersweet lessons are imparted. There’s usually very little clacking of teeth. No one has terrible breath or strangely cavernous pores up close (seriously, there’s a reason why people keep their damn eyes shut for kissing). Hollywood first kisses are innocent and exploratory and everyone respects each other afterward. Continue reading

Move In Day

We’re moving into the new house today.

It’ll be memories returned and reframed, all right. Boxes and sweat and standing on the outside looking in.

Mom and I both smelled smoke for the first time in months yesterday. We smelled it for ages after the fire – some strange psychological combination of it searing our nostrils and our minds just supplying it in moments of stress – and yesterday, we both smelled it again standing in the doorway of the new house wondering if this one would last.

I’ve been collecting snapshots from July 18 to remember what happened. It seems important, somehow.

  • The initial news report that I reread over and over again at 2am in Florida waiting for my flight home, trying to make sense of what had happened. My mother was irritated at being called “his wife”, since technically she’s a homeowner as well.
  • Video One of the damage.
  • Video Two of the damage.
  • Video Three of the damage.

I watch those videos even now and I barely remember filming them. I’d been going on 50 hours without sleep and my house was a warzone.  Even then there was a need to document every last sensation, to honor it. I suppose the impulse remains even now when I chose to start a blog.

I’m very excited for the new house.  But I want to remember the old one, too. Even when it trembled and fell in front of me.

A Matter of Perspective: POV WTF

I tried to write about what happened in Boston and I can’t. It feels appropriative to do so, when I’ve never been to Boston and I know only a few people who live there. So instead, I’ll just say that I’m hoping that they apprehend who is responsible as soon as they can, and that everyone affected by this tragedy finds comfort, and move on to a subject I do know: what I hate about some modern literature.

There are about eight billion “rules” about writing different perspectives, and I tend to think that all of them can be successfully thrown out the window.  If you don’t know the difference between third person and first person point of view (POV), here is a handy link that describes the difference (I’m not going to do it; ain’t nobody got time for that).  For the most part, I’ll roll with any POV if the story’s interesting enough.  However, there is a popular character in first person narration that drives me up the freaking wall. I’m sure you’ve read this book before, but I’ll describe it:

The narrator is female.  Coming of age, or only just out of teens.  She’s quiet and intelligent, but socially awkward with her peers because she’s not sure exactly what to say all the time.  She doesn’t like parties and she doesn’t drink or have boyfriends, generally. She doesn’t think she’s pretty.  She dislikes the “in crowd”, regardless if they’re cheerleaders or bolder young women in her acquaintance.  She likes school, but she’s pretty average – but she’s WAY smarter than most of the other young adults, she tells us. She says her life is pretty boring, actually… until [insert big life-changing event] happens.

What book did I just describe? Could be a few, right?  Twilight? 50 Shades of Gray? A Discovery of Witches? A(ny) Cassandra Clare novel?  A(ny) current Young Adult novel geared toward young women, actually, with the exception of a precious few?

Readers.  Readers. How do we keep reading this shit? That description above isn’t a character; it’s a pastel self-insert with all the qualities women sans self-esteem wish they would possess: shyness, virtue, and a razor-sharp judgment of any woman who actually has the balls to enjoy life. Oh, and while this character is super “average”, she assures us, there are always a few suitors fresh off restraining orders from their ex-girlfriends waiting in the wings.  Because that [insert big life-changing event] I referenced? It’s nearly always a guy. Which is fine if I pick up a romance novel, but this is EVERY GENRE. Sci fi! Dystopia! Historical lit!  I’m pretty sure that if I picked up a freaking cookbook in Barnes and Noble it’d have a demon flashing me his pecs on the cover with the tagline “Jeanie Smith had a normal life… until she ate his crème brûlée”.

And up until recently, this character happened every few books, but now?  I pick up a YA book and if I see first person female POV, I put that book back on the shelf. Because that first person is more likely than not that self-involved, twatty little idiot who can’t survive for five seconds without having someone save the day.

Ladies. Gentlemen. We’ve got to stop this.  We can’t keep letting this allegory-of-a-person be our window into fantastic worlds.  The the Bellas of the world, the Anas and Dianas and the Clarys… they’ve got to die. I want a book with a fearless heroine who sleeps around and makes bad decisions and doesn’t give a shit what other women do and thinks her ass needs work, but on the whole, she thinks she’s one hot momma – AND she’s still smart and in the middle of Big Shit when [enter big life-changing event] happens because you know what?  When big life-changing stuff happens, your life is never empty. You’re never waiting for it. You’ve got Big Things happening to you anyway and then here comes One More.

Am I going to have to write this book?  Or can someone recommend a book where the main first-person POV female actually is a real person and not a plot device?

My Stupid Mouth: Job Interviews

Job interviews are a particularly dazzling example of why I shouldn’t be allowed to interact with other people.  Nearly everyone hates them, even the ones doing the interviewing, and they’re pretty much 99% verbal bullshit and 1% dressing like you will never actually dress for the job, but for some reason, they remain a requirement. Ostensibly, it’s to ensure that the job candidate isn’t the type to stir up trouble, has the right attitude, and doesn’t pick their nose like it’s a goldmine. I get that. The problem is, I’m one of those people that warms up to people slooooowly. It takes time for me to get out of “pat answer time” into “actual person mode”. And while I can deliver those pat answers like a pro (“An example of a time in my past job that I used problem-solving skills?  Oh, let me count the ways!”), I get into major trouble when the interviewer deviates from the expected set of questions. I also sometimes just blow the entire thing like a two-dollar hooker.  For example: Continue reading