Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Martin's Curious Camera - Part 2

     Martin had told me three months earlier, over lunch at a corner sports bar, that his bank account was a little stretched. It was Friday, and I dared to order a pint of cool and delicious amber ale – assuming Martin would take my lead and indulge as well.
     “Eh, going out to lunch is already pushing it,” he sighed, dipping the third and final section of his crispy fry into a depleting pool of BBQ sauce, “I can’t throw a 5 dollar beer on top of it.”
     “It will just have to be on me,” I said as I flagged down our server and ordered Martin an amber as well. “It’s Friday!”
     He talked about how his grad school loans were painful to pay each month, and how his landlord has recently raised his rent. I listened, but only half-way, feeling bored by the conversation I had shared with each and every 25-35 year old I knew. We enjoyed our cold one and went back to our favorite conversation topic – how much work sucks, how we don’t make enough money, how boring it is to sit in a cube from day to day.
     “We should have gone to art school,” I suggested, “Computer Science seemed like the right idea at the time, but that’s just because I was unpopular in high school. It’s really not worth the boredom.”
     “I know. When I was 17 I thought that being able to calculate angles and distances in my head meant I was like some kind of super computer. I thought that I was going to be writing video game code or working for the Pentagon. Not writing code for some software company. Man, I’d do anything to get a cooler job.”
     We cheersed the final swallow of our beers to the sad and distant idea of having a super cool job, grabbed our colorless suitcoats from the backs of our chairs and exited the restaurant. It wasn’t until about a week later when he started acting funny.

     “Remember when we were at Hemmingway’s? And we were bitching about work, and you said that we should have gone to art school?” he asked me one afternoon in front of the tiny kitchen fridge as he cracked open a Diet Coke.
     “Yeah, that would have been awesome.”
     “Are you good at art? I mean, have you studied art?”
     “I took a couple of electives in undergrad – just an Art history and an Intro to the Nakeds or the Classics, or something. But I don’t remember shit about it; accept that Leonardo Da Vinci was gay.”
     “Gay? Really? Huh. I guess that explains the Vitruvian Man.” Martin deadpanned.
     “The what?”
     “Never mind,” he laughed, “you don’t remember shit, do you?”
     “No Hablar espanol either.” I said, “If it wasn’t in my major I just tried not to sink, you know? The art stuff was cool, though. I maybe should have paid more attention. What’s your interest?”
     “Oh, about the art? No big interest, I was just reading some stuff about an international art auction in New York. Wondering how much that stuff goes for.”
     "I don't really know anything about it,"I said,"but I feel like everytime there's an auction like that the numbers are just crazy - millions of dollars for some painting of flowers or of some ballet dancer or something. Money that I can't imagine spending on a home, let alone a 10X10 canvas to hang on a wall!"
     "Yeah. Millions. That much money only exists in suitcases handcuffed to the arms of bad guys in the movies, right?" Martin's eyes drifted off to the floor. "That's why people steal art. Millions of dollars for some little picture. Millions."

              ---To Be Continued---

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Night At The Movies - Part 1

      “I could have avoided all that trouble if I had only remembered to roll those car windows up.” Sarah’s dad started, with a wide-eyed look on his face that made it hard to know if he was telling the truth.
It was pretty common for Mr. Olson to tell us old stories as he sipped on what he said was a soda, but, even at 14, I suspected was a booze drink. I slept over at their house all the time, and even when Sarah rolled her eyes and asked him to leave us alone, I nodded attentively, eager to hear him tell stories about his childhood in a way I had always wished my dad would.
      “I was exactly your age,” he said through the heavy sighs of his daughter, “12.”
      “Dad! I’m 14!”
      “Oh right,” he said, “that’s right. I was 14.”

      Mr. Olson told us a story that began with basketball. He said that he and his best friend, Skinny Mitch, were shooting hoops outside the community center with a kid called Joey Arnold. Mr. Olson said the boy’s called him Timmy back then, sometimes Tiny Tim. Mr. Olson told us how Joey Arnold wouldn’t stop bragging about how he was going to see The Faceless Man, the newest horror flick to reach their local cinema, that Saturday night. The little Mr. Olson, Timmy, and Skinny Mitch knew that Joey couldn’t get into a horror movie, and they called his bluff.
      “Yeah, right, big man,” Mitch taunted, “you don’t look 12, let alone 17!”
Joey paused mid-three pointer, arms posed in the air dramatically to make his point.
      “Oh yeah, losers, my brother Scott works the ticket booth. All I have to do is buy a ticket to Fantastical Mr. Turtle, and my brother will let me sneak into The Faceless Man. Take that!” On the exclamation, Joey went for the shot – forcing all his coolness into the hope for a swish. He hit it. Mitch and Timmy were beyond impressed.
      “No shit, Joey! Are you for real?! That’s awesome. Come Monday, you’ll be the only kid in the whole 9th grade who’s seen it. Man, that’s SO awesome.” Mr. Olson touched the palm of his hand to the Nike Swish on his t-shirt. He said he could feel the jealousy swell up in his chest as he passed the ball to Mitch, but he had an idea.
      "You don’t think Scott would sneak us in to the movie, too, do you?"

      The deal involved Mitch and Timmy doing Joey’s math homework for a week. But it was a deal.
      Back at Timmy’s house later that afternoon, he knew he had some work to do. His parents had plans to go out that Saturday night, so that was a plus. Since they were close friends of the Stewarts, Mitch’s parents, he planted some seeds to get them to go on a double date.
      The double date plan went better than expected. A new restaurant had opened in town that only served family style meals – servings of 4, 6 or 8 – and Timmy’s parents really wanted to go. On that Saturday afternoon, he sat down at the kitchen table where his dad was prepping the dinner their son would eat after they left for the evening. Timmy brought got his plan in motion.
      "You guys should totally go to that new place, Mario’s, or Luigi’s, or whatever."
      "Gregorino’s Trattoria.” His dad corrected. “And it’s only for groups, unfortunately. Your mom and I have been interested in going there for weeks.”
He knew he had his in.
      "Oh really? Just yesterday I heard Mr. Stewart saying how much him and Mrs. Stewart wanted to go there, too. You guys should ask ‘em.”
The older Mr. Olson hesitated in peeling his carrot for a minute, and pushed his eyeglasses up his nose with his finger. He called out to the Timmy’s mom.
      “Sandy…Have you talked to Tom or Marcia today?”
      She had.
      Were they busy tonight?
      They weren’t.
      His Dad suggested that he give their friends a call and invite them for a nice evening out at the Trattoria. His Mom thought this idea was lovely and thanked him for being so thoughtful. Mr. Olson laughed when he told us that his Dad peered over his mom’s shoulder and winked at him.
      “Later,” he said “my dad told me that the trick to keeping your wife happy was the element of surprise.” Before they left that night, Mr. Olson said, his dad slipped him a five for a pizza in case he wasn’t interested in the casserole they had left for him.

      “Wait a minute,” Sarah stopped her dad. She was incredulous. “5 Dollars? For a whole, pizza? See, Jamie, I told you he was lying.”
      “Lying? No way,” Mr. O. quickly rebutted, “you have to remember this was 1972. Thing were a little different back then. You know I had a job stocking shelves at the market when I was 11…”
      “I know, I know,” my best friend laughed, “up hill both ways, right?”
      “Oh, have I told you that story before?” Mr. Olson winked at Sarah, I guessed just like his dad winked at him that Saturday night in 1972.

--To Be Continued--

Prompt: Begin a story with the following sentence: “I could have avoided all that trouble if I had only remembered..."

Questions: I'm having trouble keeping the frame in tact. I like the story as "Mr. Olson telling a story to Sarah and Jamie" but I think its really awkward to keep referring back or calling the narrator Mr. Olson. Any advice for how to rearrange so I can keep the frame without all the awkward? Check back for more of the story...

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Voice of Reason

Eliot's slanted eyes glinted like 24 carot gold in the thin band of morning sun which peeked in through the blinds of my bedroom window.

"They won't notice you are gone, anyway." he says.

I was more offended by his wry comment than I was surprised by his eloquent speech. I always knew Eliot had it in him.

"No, not those jeans," Eliot purred as I grabbed the first pair I saw from my laundry pile, "the dark ones. From the Gap."

He had always had a sense of style.

"Now, in your backpack load the following items:
Two apples
Two zip lock bags of Purina cat chow
A bottle of water
That soft blue sweater
Your iPod
And your CTA card."

"I understand that we need food and water, and I'm guessing we are taking the train somewhere, but whats with the sweater and iPod?" I asked.

"I'll need somewhere soft to take a nap in about an hour and I like to fall asleep to Justin Timberlake." Me too, I thought. Me too. "And Jean - please be quiet when you go into the front room - I've kept this plan a secret from Baby Shakespeare. He can't get involved in all of this."

I followed Eliot's orders and packed my red backpack with the necessary supplies. I thought about how Eliot's English sounded vaguely British. I wondered if he was just in a James Bond kinda of mood. Eliot followed me back and forth across the apartment on his dainty soundless paws. I asked if I should bring my beret and headlamp, just in case. I think he rolled his eyes at me. He hopped up in the cat tree and nodded toward my bag, I held it up and he slinked his 11 cat pounds inside. I slipped the bag on my shoulders.

"Give Shake a kiss goodbye. He really likes it when you do that." Eliot whispered from the bag. I felt like the chef from Rattatouie and felt happy that all my lame cat kissing was not for naught. I said goodbye to sleeping Shake and kissed his little face. He rolled half way, tucked his face into his paws and fell back to sleep. As I left my apartment with Eliot in my backpack, I quickly questioned my sanity. He HAD actually woken me up this morning telling me to turn off my alarm, right? He had told me to call into work and pack him in my backback…right? I paused briefly at the top of the steps, looked down the flight out and out the window the street below, double blinking my eyes to ensure clarity.

The anxious little voice from over my shoulder reminded me that this wasn't the work of my imagination.

"What are you waiting for? We're going to be late!"

Prompt: One day you wake up to find your dog/cat waiting for you at the side of your bed, sitting on your briefcase. Cocking its head, it tells you, in perfect English, that you won’t be going to work today. Why won’t your pet let you go to work, and what happens?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

When You Visit New York City

When you visit New York City, you try your hardest to not look like a tourist. In the morning of your first day in this new(york)city, you pick your clothing piece by piece from your knock off Louis Vuitton suitcase, and whisper inside your head that no one can tell that it isn’t real. You search for an outfit that says “I live in Chelsea.” You return some items to the brown and brown bag, deciding that the sweater or shoes are too Midwestern. Too comfortable for a Manhattanite.

Once you are on the street, starting your big day, you aren’t sure that you are walking toward Times Square. You can’t remember if it was left or right. You refuse to pull out your map. You hope that the direction you are walking, even if it is wrong, is not dangerous. You have seen your fare share of CSI episodes. As your heart begins to beat faster, you wish that you had looked up which neighborhoods in New York aren’t safe to walk alone. Scolding yourself, you think how typical this behavior is for you. To be so concerned about an outfit that you didn’t care to find out where you are most likely to be killed.

You begin to make a plan to turn around, to walk back the 6 or 8 or 10 blocks to the shineless doors of your budget hotel. You want to return to your room and double check your directions, to maybe ask someone at the hotel to help. You want to call your best friend and admit your stupidity. To admit you’ve been walking at least 15 minutes in what you think is the wrong direction. To be wrist slapped through the phone for almost getting yourself killed by wondering into a gang-infested neighborhood. For being too proud, or cool, or stubborn to pull out your map. You recognize that even being told that ignoring your helpful, colorful, fold-out map is stupid, you would rather be lost than look like a tourist. You might rather be mugged, too.

As you cross the street, the first step in your perfectly calculated plan to check your watch, check your phone, dig through your bag, look frustrated, and turn around in a huff (hopefully signifying the fault of someone else in your need to backtrack), you look up and into the visual cacophony of the Times Square billboards. You smile to yourself, silently congratulate yourself, and continue walking on in the direction that you knew was right all along.

Question to writers: How does the "you" form (2nd person?) benefit a story? What do we gain from using it? What do we lose?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Martin's Curious Camera - Part 1

Martin didn’t look tan enough to have vacationed in Cancun. Nor did he look sufficiently relaxed to have spent 7 days and 6 nights strolling white sand beaches or sipping Coronas in a palm tree lined outdoor bar. Martin didn’t seem relaxed at all. In fact, when he came into the office about 15 minutes late Monday morning looking pasty and twitchy, he barely said a word to me or to Matthew, although we had worked in the same department for almost 4 years and enjoyed a routine of morning banter.

“How was the old South of the Border!?” Matthew inquired, spinning his rolling office chair away from his desk to face Martin’s meagerly decorated cubicle.

“It was nice. Hot.”

“Long flight? I bet your arms are tired,” Matthew laughed, like it was the first time the English – speaking world had ever heard that joke. He was so proud I was afraid he was about to request a high five.

“That’s all you got?” I tried, “Any girls? Any crazy stories? Or is this like a ‘What happens in Mexico stays in Mexico” sort of thing.”

Martin didn’t turn around. He didn’t make eye contact. He watched his computer boot up and shuffled around the week-old papers on his desk.

“No, no…none of that. It was just uneventful, that’s all. Quiet. Relaxing.”

Matthew and I took his brevity as our cue to go back to the spreadsheeting and analysis that occupied the majority of our average workdays, but minutes later my thoughts returned to the weird interacting with Martin. He usually wasn’t so distant. And now, as I quieted my hands on my keyboard, I couldn’t even hear him at his desk. No phone call, no typing. I leaned back in my chair with the sort of fake stretch that usually signifies a low budget attempt to romance a girl at a movie theatre. From my backbend, I could just see Martin’s back as he hunched over something – his “Trees of the Northwest” computer screen saver replacing a Word or Excel file.

I couldn’t tell what he was doing, but he had been doing it for long enough for his computer to lock up. Because it was a departure from his normal office behavior, this clear distraction from work intrigued me even more. I rocked back up to an upright position in my chair, contemplating my next investigative move. Then my ears focused in. Beyond the typing, beyond the hushed phone calls, I heard a beeping. A patternless, high pitched sound that didn’t take my 21st Century ears long to diagnose – the clicking through of pictures on a digital camera. That was Martin’s engrossing activity – clicking through pictures from his “uneventful” trip to Cancun? Something about this Monday morning seemed off, and I was going to find out what.

-To Be Continued-

Prompt: Write about a roll of film that has been obtained surreptitiously.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

An Exercise in Idea Response

Jot down (quickly) the scenes you would expect to find in a film with this premise:

Two childhood friends unexpectedly fall in love during a trip to New York.

  • Laughing and accidental touching in Central Park surrounded in fall leaves and autumn colors
  • He has a dizzying moment (he can't take his eyes off her) when she spills mustard down the front of her shirt near a hotdog stand, and then cracks up laughing. He wipes mustard off his hot dog and rubs in on his face to keep up the laughter.
  • She pulls strings to get tickets to a Broadway show he thought was sold out – the hug and he accidentally says “I love you” and she laughs and says I love you, too (but its clear she’s wondering in what way he means it…)
  • Her shower explodes and floods her whole room, but the hotel is sold out so they have to stay together in his room. (Or, they are staying together already but at check-in the hotel doesn’t have their two double beds available! They have to share a King?!?)
  • The two get really drunk at some fancy Manhattan restaurant and confess that they always wish their significant others could be more like the other one.
  • She almost walks in front of a cab, and he pulls her back and into his arms.

These were just some of my first, semi-obvious ideas. What other scenes come to mind when you think of this typical Rom-Com premise?

Prompt from Dennis Cass Wants You To Be More Awesome

A P.I. and His Ride (A shot at fiction)

Mac Davies, PI. Full name Joseph MacDonald Davies Jr., son of Joseph MacDonald Davies and Bella-Joy (McAllister) Davies.

Mac Davies plants himself at coffee counters. Flannel shirted and John Deere cap wearin', he looks like a truck driver or construction worker sipping coffee at a neighborhood diner (pretending to read the Post, but possibly just looking at the headlines). His unkempt, hard workin’ appearance says he likes his coffee steaming, and that he usually opts for pie. Today, he’s removed from his diner counter hangout. Today, he leans contemplatively against the wall of 100 Financial place, pulling deep drags of a cigarette, thumbing his belt loop and squinting into the hot sun. When he stomps his cigarette out with a surprisingly clean Timberland boot, swivels left and steadily follows Jason Wrightwood on his way out of the building, Jason becomes uneasy. Jason does not become uneasy because the flannel shirted follower looks particularly menacing, but because he knows he's in trouble. He's received two calls today; anonymous enemies notifying him that his secret could no longer be considered so. Jason Wrightwood is paranoid. As he flips back his long spring Armani coat, he pulls the blackberry from his belt and tosses it into a waste-can. Without breaking stride, he reaches into the pocket of his well-pressed slacks, extracting the keys to his M500, and hits the double beep that opens the doors. To his relief, the follower does not follow. He crosses the street, lighting a new cigarette, and climbs into the unlocked red Cherokee parked a quarter block down the street. "Not a cop." Wrightwood breathes aloud. For the first time today he feels the pressure in his chest release. "Cops don't drive 15 year old hick-wagons. I bet he parks that thing in front of a trailer in Indiana" he laughs to himself.

What Wrightwood doesn’t know is that the Cherokee is the car of a loyal and adventurous PI - a PI who would plow through trash cans, over curbs and through dog parks to reach an assailant. The Cherokee says this guy means business. This guy is knows what you’re up to. This guy likes mud.


Prompt: from Dennis Cass Wants You To Be More Awesome

1. Create a P.I.

2. Pick a car for said P.I.

3. Identify what the car says to the people in the fictional detective’s fictional world

4. Identify what the car secretly signals to the reader

Vroom, vroom.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Before I Ever Arrive at Work

Most mornings I hit the snooze button on my alarm clock at least 4 times. Its not even an alarm clock, it’s a cell phone, which I hold in my hand through the early hours of the morning just to be sure that I can hit the snooze as quickly as possible. Eventually, I wake the cats from their tiny cat slumber, and swing my legs over the side of the bed. Although it’s not even a bed, its futon I bought more than 5 years ago, which I resent but still refuse to replace with a real sleep center. I shuffle across the beat-up wooden floor of my apartment and open the lid of my aging Macbook. Clicking on some arbitrary music I scoot the 2 or 3 yards to my blue tiled bathroom and indulge in a quick and purposeful shower. Barely dry, glasses fogged, I select arbitrary clothing items from my closet and layer them on my body. Sometimes, I take a picture of my face and text it to my girlfriend so that she knows I’ve started my day. I sling my messenger bag over my shoulder, packed with reading and writing books (books that are more good faith efforts than they are functional), and lock the cats inside the heavy wooden door. I scoot down the single flight of stairs and cross Clark street at whatever light blinks “Walk”.

I usually miss the train. I then stand and wait; sometimes I read or write. When the Purple line train eventually arrives, I herd myself with the crowd to an available seat, and make the first important decision of the day: Do I cross my arms and try to sleep on the 25 minute journey, or do I challenge myself to write some words in my hard backed fake-leather notebook? Most days I try to write – slurring down mis-spelled words with a purple pen stolen from my office like I’m inebriated rather than just sleepy. Some mornings I surprise myself with the ease of my pen’s flow, with the appearance of words on paper that I didn’t know were inside my head, with the profundity my 8am brain can achieve. Other mornings I write the date in the corner and think a little about all the things I should write about. I then stick my purple pen between the pages of my hard backed fake-leather notebook, cross my arms over my chest, let my eyes close, and hope for 22 minutes of sleep.

Prompt: Write about a less than remarkable aspect of your life.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Shakespeare the Cat

When I key though my apartment door after a day at work, or a night out, or a weekend away, Shakespeare the Cat squawks. He persists, pushes and demands. His surprisingly rough and scratchy little cat voice both irritates and soothes me. As a two-pound kitten, when I first brought him home from the Humane society (along with his quiet and calm brother), he spent every night standing against my single studio alley-facing window crying. This devastated me. Panicked as any mother or creepy cat young adult would be, I laid awake night after night trying to soothe him. I guessed he had contracted a disease, suffered from a hidden injury or dealt with an overwhelming amount of anxiety. Now, 6 years after his birth, I've assessed that he is just needy and bossy, but this conclusion was not reached quickly. It was not reached without traveling first by taxi or borrowed Camry to the vet seeking diagnosis. Shakespeare the Cat, the polite vet explained gingerly, suffered not from a mysterious illness or injury, and was not anxious. Shakespeare the cat had most likely not digested a portion of the most likely not poisonous plant sample I clutched desperately in a blue and yellow makes green zip lock bag. Shakespeare the Cat suffered from nothing, besides, perhaps, a lack of attention. The cat-printed shirt which peaked out sabotagingly from under my v-necked sweater sadly punctuated the $200 vet trip for the squawky cat that just needed a hug.

Prompt: Write about a noise-or a silence-that wont go away

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ray Bradbury: 90 and Awesome

I read a lot of science fiction as a kid. I had a few old books I had picked up at thrift stores, dusty and stale with age, in the deteriorating medium of paper pages and spine - hardly giving away the endless possibilities and human capabilities supposed between their covers.

Most of the stories that I read I no longer remember the book title, the author, the characters names. I just hold a moral, or what moral I took. An image conjured, stored in my mind, and viewed through like stained glass - coloring my perpectives as I have grown. I remember a story about a man in the far flung future who learned to do math by hand, after years of computers completing all calculations, to the fear and amazment of his community. I remember a story of a puzzle fallen to Earth and found by very young children--who played with it, understood it, and solved it in a way that their parents couldn't understand. (The take-away here was that we are born with a certain unique and real method of thought, an ability to process that is negated by grownups who think we are just baby blabber and cooing - and that we lose this important way of thinking through conditioning to think like everyone else.)

I have leaned away from science fiction as I've leaned away from all fiction - but today I was wrapped back into that world of possibility and futuristic perspectives that I held as a kid. Both a fear of future and an optimism - as I read about the upcoming 90th birthday of the legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury on August 22nd. You've read or at least heard of some of his "big" pieces -Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine or The Martian Chronicles but he's written endless amount of visionary works helping readers to look beyong their own experience into a place where anything is possible.

In the article Mr. Bradbury is quoted as saying one of the most inspiring things I've heard in a long time. A confession that truly speaks to a life lived extraordinarily.

"I jump off the cliff and build my wings on the way down."

This might be my new favorite quote (and I am known to dislike quotes, or things that attempt to evoke inspiration).

There are some surprising and unique aspects to the article -- such as Bradbury's repeated implication that his faith in God, or maybe God himself are responsible for his literary works. That his religious beliefs (although incredibly unusual in a scientific community) have actually served as a boost in his exploration of science and other worldliness -- not a hurdle.

I encourage you to read the article, learn about an amazing writer, pick up a copy of Farenheit and perhaps turn your eyes to the stars with a little more wonder.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday Kitten Snack

Two of my favorite things, Kittens and DC.

Look at that little guy's face. He's a therapy kitten at the United Cerebral Palsy center in DC. Good work little buddy!
Read more here.

Wednesday Night Meditations on City Living

I feel an inherent dichotomy in my bones.

I am a girl raised in suburbs who thrives in city, but my city living has always been warmly flanked by opportunities to spread my wings in quiet places.

My growing up is a rolladex of camping trips, making secret promises creekside, plans to bike the vertical length of the Western coast. The semi-suburban 4 years of college life were softened by the green space, by the river, by the ability to escape into nothingness. Even life in DC was punctuated by a close proximity (in each stage, with each house-mate, in each apartment) to the alive and exhilarating Rock Creek park - the perfect escape for city-bound button-ups. Even now, I can admit that my interest in the location of the L, grocery and liquor stores, is really appreciated when compared to my easily accessible Lake Front Path. To the choppy quiet of the lake. The city is a place where I feel my most me, but it is only so because I can escape the noise and combat any time I desire with the solace of the lake.

The city provides me with the feeling of independence - the long desired need to feel unreliant on anyone or anything, but I mostly love the city because it provides room for comparison. I love extremes - I am not a "gray" person. I love the black, and I love the white - the gray is not enough of either. I cannot appreciate the vastness of black and white from the middle of the gray.

I think that I could give up my big lake for a small lake. I could live a life where my day to day was the Lake Front Path, and my escape was the city. Where I could see and feel and breathe the comparison from the other side. Where my Tuesday was a time for wooded trails and quiet, and my weekends were occupied with the cacophony of traffic and crowded bars. I think I could exist with the city as punctuation - as an exclamation mark - I think the black and white could remain just as starkly bright, contrasting, and mesmerizing from the other side of the line.

In the same way that I love the city, I think I could love being away from it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Making Decisions about Memories

I am not known to be neat.

Without making excuses, I will say that my propensity towards the sloppy is not because I don't care. It's because I DO care. I care about everything; I care too much. I have a hard time trashing a newspaper that I didn't read every word of, let alone one that contained articles that interested me, or writing that inspired me. I have a hard time throwing away anything that can possibly be reused, or things I think someone else might want. I always joke that this behavior originates from growing up in the depression (and I do certainly think my mother's thrift has had some impact on my problem) but at the root it is just my overemotional desire to hang on to memories - and usually memories are represented by things. I have a fear of things disappearing, of not being reclaimable, of letting something slip from my fingertips and being unable to remember what it felt like against my skin.

The easy way for people to help me clear up this problem is to just tell me no, to throw some of that stuff away for me, to help me find a way to reuse or recycle - its not a creepy additiction (yet). Its just an annoying habit. I don't really notice when stuff is gone, I just don't like getting rid of it myself. Specifically, I have a problem letting go of certain items like hand written cards, letters and emails.

There is something about a hand written card from my grandmother that just destroys me. Its a thing about words (which are obviously a passion of mine) - its notes, letters, texts and emails. The most touching and important things I own are just a few words shared with me - "Feel Better" cards from my 3rd grade classmates after my dad died, letters from high school friends tucked into my copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, a thankful text from my best friend the day after her wedding. I have kept this collection minimal, but its a challenge to not save every word written to me. I know I don't have space for it. I am realistic.

But in the e-world there are only vague limitations to the records I can keep. And keep I do. I almost never delete an email. I revel in my ability to go back through the last few months of my current relationship and read our sweet exchanges. To follow conversations with my best friends on the East coast about burritos and beer. To prove to myself or to another person that a conversation happened or that an agreement way made --I like to have proof. I like to remember what jobs I applied to each time I was unemployed. Luckily at this point I havent hit any of the absurdly high limits on my gmail account, for that will be a sad day. That will be a day when I have to make some decisions. Decisions about what is really important to me.

As for the physical things I have a hard time trashing, maybe its just time I start scanning documents and taking pictures of objects -- time to create an e-time capsule of all my memories so that I can continue into maturity and adulthood without closets full of useless "things" with which I am afraid to part. Or maybe I just start writing about them and then giving them away. I don't really need a closet full of artifacts to remember that I've had experiences - I just need to get better at documenting. Writing about those moments and what they mean to me. What compelled me to hang on to begin with. A half a page of my chicken scratch might be more significant than a business card or a bottle cap in the long run, anyway.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Diving Into Yoga

Since I hurt my back in an unknown incident in March of 2009 doctors and fellow back injury sufferers have told me that if I want to keep running (like i do!) I need to work in some core building. Specifically, lots of people have told me to consider taking up Yoga. I will admit wholeheartedly, although a big part of me has always thought that yoga was "cool" I was still pretty sure that it wasn't for me. to me, Yoga is something slow, requiring concentration, a serious expression on my face, and 45 minutes of quiet. This seemed like the opposite of my vision of a workout. I like to workout sort of fast and furious. I like it to be measurable, 5 miles, 1 hour, 6.0 on a treadmill. Yoga didn't really seem to fit my image of myself.

However, I've come to terms with the fact that I need to stop relying on the "image I hold of myself" like its tattooed on my flesh. I have tried to stop saying "that's not something I would do" and just try to do it and see if maybe it IS something I do. I have been surprising myself.

So, when one of my besties trained for a million months and became a yoga teacher, I felt like it was a good opportunity to be supportive of her passion and lifestyle and perhaps generate an excuse to sign up for a yoga class.

This Yogi friend, who knows my all or nothingness, convinced me that I would only be able to make a real decision (which she was already certain would be favorable) about yoga if I dove in. head first. Into the deep end. (Safety of course, for in addition to one hell of a Vinyasa she also knows CPR). I liked her aggressiveness. :)

I began my dive into the world of Yoga both at Core Power Yoga in Lincoln Park but also at the Ray Meyer Fitness Center through Depaul University. This week I've taken three classes (2 regular beginner heated, one Yoga Sculpt - which is Yoga with free weights) and it has been rad. I really like it. I like the focus. I like the serious look on my face. I like the soreness in my muscles the next day. And, PS, its hard. Yoga is hard. Don't be fooled.
This week I'm doing Yoga 4 times, maybe five. And I feel like I could really keep doing it that often. I bike to yoga, so I get that in, too, but I haven't been running all week. I need to learn how to integrate it all together, and still have plenty of time to go to the bar.
I do not imagine that this will be my last rambling on yoga.
Tell me about your yoga experiences, or why you havent had them. Go.
Photo above is of my Yogi friend, Nic. She's a good teacher, even upside down.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Relaunch 57.0 (I'm back...Again)

It happened again. My schedule got busy and I dropped my blog. It is so hard to believe a person like me, a person who has committed countless hours and endless amounts of money (or at least the promise of money via the federal government) to the practice of writing can’t seem to find the time or make the effort to post a few times on a blog that was designed to be fun. In elementary form its simple – I’ve spent the last several months going out for drinks, going on dates, going to the beach, going running, than I haven't been writing about those things. THAT, of course, is a preference. (To DO rather than to simply WRITE about doing). But I need to work on a happier medium for myself. And so this is the beginning of a relaunch of the blog again and hopefully this time I’ll stay active for longer than a few months.

Some topical commentary for today? Some personal goings on? Certainly.

One thing I’m thinking about lately is other people’s blogs. Clearly, people blog and write in a public manner to be shared. There is a sense that what you are writing is important enough that other people should want to read it, or that its informational enough that you think people SHOULD read it, or you are just looking for interaction that you aren’t obtaining in your life off-line. Maybe that means advice, or commentary and editing for your creative endeavors, or encouragement. The blogger gets something out of publishing their thoughts or their personal work online. But even though I know that bloggers blog for readers, I still end up feeling like a voyeur when I find myself reading the blog of some facebook acquaintance or a stranger who’s blog comes up on my Google search for “December 2012 Apocalypse.” Is it ok to read strangers blogs even if you think they are nuts, or horrible writers, or completely annoying? Is it wrong to read someone’s blog and secretly make fun of them? It makes me feel like all those trolls who slink around on liberal websites and leave comments about god and religion. I support reading things that may be outside of your normal sites – something that challenges you to think differently, but you should be there with an open mind. Not there to criticize, right? I know the bloggers put their stuff out there willingly (as I do!) but is it fair to sneak around and mock a blogger? Should you stay a silent observer or is it actually more fair to identify yourself and comment ?

Just thoughts on blogging from a recently relaunched blogger.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Reduce, Reuse, and Throw Glass and Cardboard into the Trash?

I remember watching the Sean Connery film Medicine Man for the first time. I was so inspired by the jungle, by the fight to cure cancer through the miracle of nature, by Dr. Campbell and Dr. “Bronx” that I banded together with my fellow neighborhood young environmentalists and declared the day International Rainforest Conservation Day. We roamed around our neighborhood with our faces painted like the original Medicine Man paints Bronx’s face in the film, wore khaki shorts and hiking boots, and soapboxed about saving the earth to everyone we encountered.

Its funny how when you are young you have no real concept of time – six months is forever and the age 30 is ancient. But even if those lapses in understanding were present on the International Rainforest Conservation Day, somehow my underdeveloped brain processed the crisis of the environment an immediate. As threatening. They are cutting down trees?? Animals are dying? Species are going extinct? My soda can is pollution?

I felt the weight of environmental destruction on my shoulders as I built compost bins with my best friend and pestered my mother for eggshells and coffee grounds with which to fill it.

As I grew older, much of the world of the Lazy Layman’s Urban Guide to Saving the World became routine. Of course there is a blue recycling bin under my desk at work. Of course I turn the water off when I brush my teeth. Why wouldn’t I bring my reusable grocery bags with me to the store? The passion that trademarked the early stages of my relationship with the environment has morphed into a passive companionship. I do my part but never think twice.

I’ve recently rekindled some of the romance the green earth and I had once shared. It wasn’t a statistic about the rapid decay of our resources, or the upcoming release of Disney’s Oceans (a companion to Earth), or even a late night rewatching of the origin of my environmentalism, Medicine Man. It was the realization that my new apartment building doesn’t recycle. Doesn’t recycle? Doesn’t even play its part in the Lazy Layman’s Urban Environmental Action Plan? Doesn’t even passively protect the ground on which we walk? How is this possible? I’m supposed to throw my recyclables in the same bag as real actual waste?

Chicago has a sad history of fake recycling (remember the Blue Bag Program?) but 10 years after the beginning of this millennium, it is criminal to throw bottles and cardboard boxes into a landfill.

Any advice on how I get involve in this fight? Who controls local recycling programs? Who do I complain to?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In The Absence of Lunchmeat

The location of my new apartment is ideal. Its right in the middle of everything. I have an international assortment of restaurants and all the shopping that’s necessary (vintage/independent stores and DSW and Marshalls). I am also a brisk three minute walk to the train (assuming I hit green lights), nearby clubs and dive bars, and right at the corner of cross town buses. My sister lives only a couple miles away and my work a quick ride on a reverse commute train. Seems pretty nice, right? There is really only one thing missing from my neighborhood. Lunchmeat. Yeah, seriously.

There isn’t a super grocery store, and there isn’t a little deli-type market nearby. There is a Whole Foods, but even in my most yuppie of moments I was still not in my element enough to navigate that place. If there was lunchmeat, I sure didn’t find it.

At first I didn’t think this was too much of a big deal – I mean, its just one item on my grocery list, right? Wrong. I find myself frequently focusing on my lack of sliced turkey. When I pack my lunch each day I skim the fridge—whats in there? Some leftover pasta? A few slices of frozen pizza? I guess I could throw some peanut butter between two slices of bread, but its just not the same. I didn’t know this about myself, but I apparently have one specific idea of what “Making my lunch” means.

Two Slices of wheat bread
One slice of cheese (preferably not government cheese, but willing to compromise)
Yellow Mustard

Cheezits (or other similar baked cracker-like object)
Piece of fruit

Possible Soda, if I’m feeling generous.
Water from ye olde Nalgene bottle

I know. This is a post about lunchmeat—which is kind of ridiculous – but I think part of my desire to post about this predicament is how confused my daily life can become with just one switch up. I didn’t really notice my lack of lunchmeat when I was grilling out everyday in Austin, or when I was living out of my old bedroom at my mom’s house. I just noticed when I got back into 9 to 5ing, suddenly there was a gap in my routine, a gap that made me (for the first couple weeks) to resort to PotBelly sandwiches for lunch, but now, I’m trying to make my lack of lunchmeat cause me to be more creative!

2010 is a year of opportunities, a year of creating new routines, finding new passions. This is the Year of 52 Adventures.

Tonight for dinner I made what I’m calling a gourmet Jacks frozen pizza. I had a pizza in my fridge, it sounded delicious. So I added Andouille sausage, sliced green peppers and stewed tomatoes. It was rad, and in a world without lunchmeat- the second half will be lunch tomorrow at work!