Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Are you surrendering your dog to a kill shelter?

If so, I have one word for you: sleazebag. Actually, I have another: trash: The word asshole will also suffice quite nicely, thank you. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that you fucking suck and are sentencing your dog (or cat or hamster or whatever) to death. Are you happy now, shithead?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rock 'n Roll Band

If we were a rock 'n roll band
We'd travel all over the land.
We'd play and we'd sing and wear spangly things,
If we were a rock 'n roll band.

If we were a rock 'n roll band,
And we were up there on the stand,
The people would hear us and love us and cheer us,
Hurray for that rock 'n roll band.

If we were a rock 'n roll band,
Then we'd have a million fans.
We'd giggle and laugh and sign autographs,
If we were a rock 'n roll band.

If we were a rock 'n roll band,
The people would all kiss our hands.
We'd be millionaires and have extra long hair,
If we were a rock 'n roll band.

But we ain't no rock 'n roll band.
We're just seven kids in the sand
With homemade guitars and pails and jars
And drums of potato chip cans.

Just seven kids in the sand,
Talkin' and wavin' our hands,
And dreamin' and thinkin' oh wouldn't it be grand,
If we were a rock 'n roll band.

- Shel Silverstein

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lionel Shriver, "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

But I have a theory about Dream Houses. Not for nothing does "folly" mean both foolhardy mistake and costly ornamental building. Because I've never seen a Dream House that works. Like ours, some of them almost work, though unqualified disasters are equally common. Part of the problem is that regardless of how much money you lavish on oak baseboards, an unhistoried house is invariably cheap in another dimension. Otherwise, the trouble seems rooted in the nature of beauty itself, a surprisingly elusive quality and rarely one  you can buy outright. It flees in the face of too much effort. It rewards casualness, and most of all it deigns to arrive by whim, by accident.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Yesterday's writing

For a contest I'd like to win ... the word "slumpy" is highlighted because Adam doesn't like it. And he's my first reader.

By Allison Landa

She stands at the top of the stairs, the knife in her hand pointed the wrong direction. It’s not supposed to be toward her. It’s supposed to be aimed at him. Him, the one who shares her eyebrows and squint if not her height. Him, whose DNA makes her short of temper and long of nothing.

Later in life she will laugh at herself, quip that she was about to commit hari-kari. What was I, Samurai Night Fever? She will scoff at the point of the blade, how it nearly brushed her rotund stomach. At least I had padding. Humor, of course, not so much hilarious as real, plucked from the personal headlines that we call memory.

Memory, which will shield from her the details of stained carpet and cat-piss smell. She will remember this place as sadly, slumpily beautiful. A deceptive caretaker, memory. In fact the place is not beautiful. It is sad and slumpy. That is all.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why Gandolfini's death matters

I was stunned to find out about James Gandolfini's death at the age of 51 yesterday. I suppose I might not have been; Gandolfini was significantly overweight, which likely led to his heart attack or stroke (I think they're not sure yet of the cause of death).

That said, he was legendary and seemed ephemeral. He was those things because he advanced the unreliable narrator, the likable-unlikable main character. He inhabited that role as only he could. I can't say that I know much of the rest of his body of work, but I am a great Sopranos fan. In fact, I compare myself to Tony on my website.

Gandolfini's death matters because he touched us. He made us ever more aware of the universality of human nature. He assured us we were not alone. And we're not.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The year of rejection

This year there have been several firsts:

- I have been told my writing is not good enough. Not once. Several times.
- I have been kicked out of a storytelling series because my story didn't convert to performance
- And then there are the miscellaneous rejections that come every time I send out stuff for publication, be it the memoir or otherwise.

Fuck. Fuck. FUCK.

Today's song

You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Try to run, try to hide
Break on through to the other side

- The Doors

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Yesterday's writing

Daylight’s not supposed to be torture. She’s pretty sure of that. However, her experience is vastly contradicting that at the moment. The sun is out, insinuating its way through the blinds, and she’s afraid that her evening of sleep is over.

Lying in bed thinking seems a bit too much of a trap, so she gets up, slowly so as not to wake Evan. She’s not sure why she bothers. A damn bomb could go off and the guy would still continue to snore. For the first time she realizes that the bedroom is togged out in all different variants of blue. It’s not necessarily a we’re-by-the-ocean thing. It’s a Randall thing.

The Randall thing means that the comforter is a slightly darker shade of blue than the window valences, which are darker still than the the fluffy rug that separates bed from dresser. Even the small television in the corner is draped with a turquoise swath of cloth. It doesn’t so much pull the room together as make one feel that they are standing amongst a sea of clashing stars, all beautiful and none in harmony.

She leaves for what she hopes will be less-blue pastures, namely the kitchen. Here it’s more white than anything, white with splashes of color. Red microwave, purple rug, yellow scoop that she uses to dump coffee grounds into the machine. While it goes through its paroxysms, Leigh pokes in the refrigerator. She’d always taken Randall for a health nut and some of its contents support that notion – wheat germ, protein drinks – but he’s betrayed by his freezer. Rarely has she seen so many frozen foods packed into one small space. Fish sticks, Hot Pockets, jalapeno poppers. Does he actually eat this crap? She can’t imagine her cousin with a microwaved chicken sandwich and yet there they are.

You really never know, she thinks, and contents herself with some Reduced-Guilt Pita Chips from Trader Joe’s. When her coffee’s ready, she pours it and takes it out onto the deck that spills off the living room. The view really couldn’t be more idyllic. It’s just ocean and sand and not much else, and she wonders if she could get bored of it. She comes to the conclusion that yes, you can get bored of just about everything, including – especially – perfection.

This is not the kind of morning you often have with children around. Maybe not kids of Katie’s age, but then again, maybe those kids too. You’re never just self-contained when you’re a parent. You always have one ear to the ground, one eye peeled just in case.

Sometimes, of course, that’s not enough.

It’s in these moments that regret and relief mix. In these circumstances, the negative feelings are always easier to understand. Of course there’s regret, anger, sorrow, grief. Without them she might be considered heartless, a sociopath. That’s why she never admits to the relief. It’s small and dirty and pressed down so far into the core of her that she rarely even realizes it’s there, let alone shares it with others.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dorky, but it means something to me

I get knocked down,
but I get up again.
You're never gonna keep me down.

- Chumbawumba

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I want to write

I want to tell the goddamned truth. About my weight, my childhood dog, the losses I've never detailed -- everything. Hell, I want to spill about my in-laws. I'm feeling very open, cracked open in fact. I owe it to Cheryl Strayed and to Albert Flynn DeSilver, who put on a hell of a workshop today in Petaluma.

There is something to being cracked open. Try it sometime.

Here's part of what I wrote today:

Write about something you used to know how to do.

As a kid, I used to know how to ice skate. I won’t say I was ever that great at it. I kind of bumbled along on my blades, ankles weaving and bobbing, my arms out to my sides in hopes of achieving balance. True balance was never achieved. I stumbled and I fell and I cut myself, and then somehow I wobbled back onto the blades and kept gliding.

Then adulthood descended. So did extra pounds. Now, I wasn’t a skinny kid. I always had chunky cheeks and a bulging tummy. Growing up just exacerbated the problem. Have you ever seen a fat professional ice-skater? There’s a reason for that.

Tossing the sport aside wasn’t exactly difficult. I wasn’t athletic as a child and grew even less so as the years went on. It was enough for me to walk up a steep street while pretending I wasn’t completely sweaty and short of breath. I couldn’t imagine running after a ball or jumping into a pool for the fun of it.

I used to know how to skate. I’m not sure if that knowledge was possessed by my body or brain. I picture myself as a seven-year-old, eight-year-old, an elementary schooler wearing a sweater and sturdy corduroy pants, making my way around the circle of an ice rink at University Towne Center. That’s what they do in San Diego – give malls fancy names, British-seeming monikers with extra e’s for good measure. Where I grew up, shopping is a sport. I’m not very good at that either.

The last time I skated I was 32 years old. My then-boyfriend, now-husband accompanied a few graduate-school friends of mine to Berkeley Iceland, which is now closed, gated, fenced off and duly graffitied. I was a good sport at first. I laced up my skates and wobbled over to the rink. Then I stepped on the ice and the panic descended.

How the fuck was I supposed to do this?

Every extra pound on my body made itself known. I’m not one to use my weight as an excuse – I would far rather people didn’t notice it was there then see it as a handicap – but damn it, it sure stifled my ability to gracefully do a damn thing. I held onto Adam with all I had, but soon I got to feeling that I was bringing him down, holding him back, the fat lady with the skinny guy, a circus act.

“You do it,” I said, and tromped off the rink. I sat on a bench and unlaced my skates. They seemed to be laughing at me, mocking. The street kids who populated the place seemed to be looking at me, analyzing. How much she weigh anyway? A ton! Were they actually saying that? Did it matter?

He followed me off the ice. “You okay?”

“Yeah. I just don’t like this.”

“You were all excited to come.”

Was excited. Past tense. Not anymore.”

I looked down at my thighs. They seemed to spread across half the damn bench. What’s more unattractive, fat thighs or a fat ass? I didn’t think my ass was too fat, not compared to my gut, but who knew? There was a mirror across the room and I avoided it like a deer avoids an oncoming train. One hit and bye-bye Charlie.

His blue eyes sized me up, evaluated me. I couldn’t tell if he was angry or frustrated or none of the above. I knew better than to ask. “I’ll tell you when I’m angry,” he always said. Well, okay.

“So what are we going to do now?”

“There is no we. I’m going to sit this one out, maybe drown myself in some hot chocolate. You go back out there and skate.” I pointed to my skinny friends swirling around the ice. “Go hang out with them.”

“I want to be with you.”

I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t much want to be with myself.

Being fat is a particular brand of freakishness. You literally don’t fit. Booths, airplane seats, small racy cars meant for fun and frivolity. Adam had a Miata. I never told him how much I hated sitting in that tiny thing, what a howling moose beast I felt myself to be. We took my Corolla as much as possible. Corollas are good cars, forgiving. Toyota – it’s the fat person’s friend.

“I used to be able to do this.”

“Then you can do it again. Come on. It’s like riding a bike.”

“Another thing I can’t do any more.”

Ever see a fat person riding a bike? Come on, tell me it’s not funny, you lying fuck.

“You know that for a fact?”

“You want to test it out?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I do.”

We’d been together a year and a half and already I was thinking long-term. It was moments like this, though, that made me think again. Did I really want to be pushed to the wall like this on a regular basis?

To say no would be running away. To say yes could constitute some sort of emotional sentence. Either way, I wasn’t sure I could win. Maybe I already had, though. After all, this man loved me. He was religious about telling me so, reminding me how beautiful he found me, how sexy, how hot, how incredibly awesome.

Each compliment went down like a ton of bricks. It was far easier to swallow the Pop Chips I bought in secret every few days. You chewed them and they crunched. They become molecules in your mouth and then tacked themselves directly to your ass. They were easy to understand, simple to handle. No operating instructions required.

Cheryl Strayed

I'm at a workshop with Cheryl Strayed right now and it's pretty damn awesome. She's a really bright lady with a lot of things to say.

Here's a few of them:

"What I'm going to bank on is if I feel this way about myself, some of you will too. Trust that however weird you are, the rest of us are just as weird. That's the moment to write into. People who play it safe stay in the maybe pile."

"(Find the) core question that's universal to all of us. Once I knew what I was saying, everything could be of service to that."

"Often we have mistaken revelations. Allow yourself to write about those too."

"When you're stuck, write into a moment of revelation."

"I always want to add the unwritten last line: nothing was ever the same again. This thing shifted the world -- and the reader's world too."