Picture it. June 1985. Gainesville, Florida.
One hot summer. Sticky. Oppressive. Too humid to even be sultry.
And I was doing time in summer school. Working to get ahead on my credits.
Listening to a lot of music. Watching a lot of MTV.
Nursing a shattered heart -- the by-product of the end of a messy, complicated relationship that spring.
Kissing a lot of boys to try and at least numb the pain of relationship finality.
Living in an apartment with two other pals -- we were all subletters, having lived elsewhere during the main school year. Trying to dodge the landlord because the fourth regular roommate, who didn’t find a subletter, was late with her share of the rent and we kept having these horrible EVICTION FORTHCOMING notices plastered to our front door. (That chick finally did pay what she owed, but damn, did it take too much time and energy to get her to pony up.)
Drinking a lot of cheap beer. A lot. Sometimes spending my laundry quarters to do it, as my regular drinking haunt was right next to my regular Laundromat.
Having lawn chairs and beach loungers for apartment furniture because the regular dwellers took all their furniture with them when they left for the summer and it just wasn’t worth it to schlep sofas and chairs up from home for six weeks. Reading Rolling Stone religiously while burning a candle and listening to my Broken Hearts Club mix tape. Over and over and over.
Riding the bus back and forth to campus because I STILL didn’t have a car at school. Sweating like a hooer in church, even just walking to the bus stop. Damn, was it hot.
In the midst of all that, I was taking two classes.
A Journalism Law classzzzzzzzz.
And an Oral Performance class. Which I adored.
Madly. Truly. Deeply.
I’m one of those rare beasts -- ok, weird people -- who, to be blunt, totally gets off on speaking in front of people. Love. It. It’s fun. It’s energizing. And it’s about as close as I get to being on stage in my regular, mundane life.
This oral performance course was tailor-made for me -- a frustrated theater girl who often regretted the decision (her father made) not to be a theater major. For class, we had to select different pieces -- prose, fiction, drama -- and not only read them aloud in an interpretive fashion, but provide a written narrative of our analysis and choices for the pieces.
I was in heaven.
Writing and performing. Bliss.
Which is what I needed in my hiding-from the-landlord-man, post-relationship ending funk.
Throwing myself into doing something I loved to get over a man. As only a broken hearted college girl could do.
I lived and breathed this class. I chose pieces that were challenging and smart and interesting: scenes from Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park.” A Shakespearean sonnet (CXVI, to be exact) And the piece that tested me in more delicious ways than I can count -- a dramatic monologue -- one from Martha, natch -- from Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”
There was one more piece that I remember. It was a poem, author unknown. I think I found it tucked within one of my dog-eared copies of Rolling Stone. I wish I’d written it. I could have. It perfectly described the very state of my being that long, hot summer.
Oh this roller coaster...
am I on forever?
It was screaming thrills
when I had the stomach
for it. And I told
everyone to try a
roller-coaster sort of
life. “The ups are
won-der-ful!” I yelled
from somewhere near the sky.
But now my guts
ache and my heart wobbles
dangerously at the downs
and I have to cling on
tightly, alone in my
seat. A couple on the
grass over there are
sitting quietly with
their arms around each
other, looking into each
other’s eyes and probably
thinking “the ups are
wonderful.” I’d hurl
myself off the roller
coaster if I had someone
to sit with on the calm
grass. But as there’s no one,
guess I’ll stay here and
try not to feel sick
sometimes. “Some people
envy me this ride” I tell
myself and with heaving
stomach I remind myself
the ups are wonderful.
I poured myself into the reading and interpretation of those words. My twenty-year-old self infused them with the sense of melodramatic weariness that seemed to envelop me. A release came with the sharing. Lemonade made from the bitter fruit I'd been toting around. And I got a GPA boost out of it as well -- Lord knows I needed it.
I’ve long since moved past my state of mind that summer -- the residue of that broken romance was washed away with the tears from other heartbreaks and the waves of new experiences. But the words of that poem are still part of me. They’ve been applicable more than once since the summer of ‘85. Each hurt a little different, yet the same.
Yeah, the ups are indeed wonderful. Not a bad idea to keep your hands in the car. But don't be afraid to let go, even if it's just for a little bit.
Labels: Inside my head
• If the whole world were listening to you right now, what would you say?
“All we are saying is give peace a chance.”
• If you could meet anyone on this earth, who would it be?
Former president Jimmy Carter, I think. I admire him greatly for putting his money and time and conviction where his mouth is. We share many of the same perspectives and he is an honorable man of God. Plus I suspect he’s a very charming Southern gent, and I’m a sucker for those.
• You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere. You have to depart right now. Where are you going to go?
Either New York City, or Barcelona, Spain. However, if I could pull it off, I’d head to Havana.
• What do you think about most?
Young William. Followed by flashes of writing ideas.
• You have the opportunity to spend a romantic night with the music celebrity of your choice – who would it be?
Please. Have we just met? Stewart Copeland. An evening 30 years in the making.
• You can erase any horrible experience from your past – what will it be?
The days when Will was very critically ill two weeks after his birth and we were given dire prognoses about his mortality. I would not wish that time on even my worst enemy. No parent should have to even consider the death of their child.
• What’s your strangest talent?
I have double jointed fingers that can move in slightly disturbing ways. I can also burp the alphabet.
• What would be a question you’d be afraid to tell the truth on?
How much I weigh. Just like every other woman in the world.
• Ever had a poem or song written about you?
Sadly, no. I date my share of creative types, but interestingly enough, none of them immortalized me in song or verse. And I dated a good number of musicians, too. Bastards. Hrumph.
• When is the last time you played air guitar?
This morning. You know how quirky my house is….
• Do you have any strange phobias?
Snakes. Snakes. Snakes. That is all. That is enough.
• What’s your religion?
Christian. Proud member of the Religious Left. Baptist, but a very very very very to the 100th degree moderate one.
• What is your current desktop picture?
A night shot of Manhattan streets, taken looking down from a top floor in a building.
• When you are outside, what are you most likely doing?
Working out. The outdoors is my gym.
• What’s the last song you listened to?
• Simple but extremely complex – favorite band?
Simple but extremely easy answer: The Police
• What was the last lie you told?
“No – I’m just going to the bedroom to watch the Gator game. I’m not going to take a nap.”
• What is a saying you say a lot?
“Please.” And “WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE!!!”
• What is your greatest weakness? Your greatest strength?
Weakness: my insecurity. I am riddled with self doubt regarding so many things…
Strength: my intelligence. The one area about myself in which I am confident.
• Who is your celebrity crush?
So many from which to choose, but let’s go with Jon Hamm. Try to act surprised.
• What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “heart”
Life. Love. Pursuit of happiness.
• How do you vent your anger?
Two ways: I either cry or speak in very measured tones using what I call $10 vocabulary words.
• Do you have a collection of anything?
Cookbooks! Snowglobes! Hotel china from classic St. Petersburg hotels and clubs.
• What is your favorite word?
Grace. Defined as unmerited favor. If Will had been a girl, I would have either called him Lucy or Grace.
Labels: Meme Monday
Well, I missed it.
You know, the big ball drop. Dick Clark -- who I understand was made up in such a fashion that he could have played Grandpa Oompa Loompa. The countdown ushering out the old and bringing in the new.
I fell asleep. 11:15 pm EST to be exact.
And so I missed the big-kiss-at-midnight-smooch-to-welcome-the-new-year thing.
In the spirit of that lovely tradition, I offer this little ditty. It rather covers the bases (first, to be specific. Heh.) for those who are near and dear but far away.
MWAH! That's me, blowing you big kisses in the wind. You know who you are...
I'm brimming with optimism about this next 12 months. More so than I can ever remember. Not sure why, but I'm not going to over-analyze in case I jinx something.
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end...
Made a set of resolutions last night. Different from the sort one usually makes at the turn of the calendar. You know, those promises we make to ourselves to espouse healthy living, break bad habits, become kinder, gentler, more dignified human beings.
Not this year. Not for me.
My resolution list looks like this:
Now this is a list that's manageable. Do-able. Achievable.
That's not to say that I don't have loftier ambitions. They're just not "resolutions."
To taking care of me. With healthy, sustainable eating. Exercise. Fresh air. Surrounding myself with people that affirm me. Whose approval I already have. Whose company I genuinely enjoy. Keeping myself mentally sharp. Shaking out cobwebs of the cerebrum. Carving out my identity.
I'm already committed to the mothering thing. If I do say so myself. That's a given. As you know. I'm just adding another layer onto the foundation of my life.
Exciting, isn't it.
Here's to new beginnings. Long may they live.
The best is yet to come and babe, won't it be fine...
What does this song mean? For my whole life I don't know what this song means. I mean, 'Should old acquaintance be forgot". Does that mean we should forget old acquaintances or does it mean if we happen to forget them we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot them?
Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it's about old friends.
Old years begat new years. For friends young and young-at-heart, new and longtime, here's to making our marks significant and meaningful and deliberate on the blank page that is 2012.
Labels: My World And Welcome To It
Things I Think About...
Who really is the better Darrin – Dick York or Dick Sargent?
What makes Tootsie Roll Pops so darn addictive? And no, I don't know how many licks it takes yada yada yada...
Where did manners and civility and respect for one’s fellow man and woman go? What is wrong with people that they have to act like such jackasses sometimes?
Mario Cantone looks just like a shorter, slightly more gay version of my old boyfriend. Who was (unconfirmed officially, but I have a great sense for these things) gay himself, just not out at the time we dated. He's still on my "dead to me" list even after 20 years. More on that later...
Do people with self-tanning addictions really think looking like they just came out of a food hydrator is attractive?
The Coca-Cola people should hire me to do testimonials for Daisani. I drink that stuff by the gallon. If only it came in gallon containers (hint-hint)...
Does Donald Trump style his own hair after he gets out of the shower? Does someone come in and swoop and swirl it for him? Are they properly compensated?
And speaking of hair -- Gene Simmons. His hair. Defies description. Really. Have you ever looked closely at it -- it's like a pack of Brillo pads, sans soapy stuff, was taken and moled to make hair. Fascinating in a can't look away sort of fashion.
There needs to be a food truck in my neighborhood that serves/delivers made-to-order breakfast.
Are people really as damn happy to be eating at Olive Garden as they seem on TV?
Why do fools fall in love?
Seriously – what is wrong with people these days?
Did Jesus’ feet ever hurt after doing all that walking in what must have been very uncomfortable sandals?
Why can I not give myself a “pedicure” without looking like a gorilla painted my toenails?
Lovey Howell was underrated.
Am I EVER going to get my office unpacked and organized? God bless America, it’s a hot mess. Ask me about this, please. I have many projects (novel, essays, podcast, website) percolating for the new year and I need a place to work, y'all. If I want to morph into the modern-day Sally Rogers, I need to get on this ASAP.
If Jon Hamm rang my doorbell and said “run away with me” I wouldn’t bother to close the door behind me as I left.
If I had my own talk show, my set would look like a big, glorious bedroom and my guests and I would wear pajamas and sit around the bedroom to chat. And we'd have a house cat. Plus a little band on a set that looked like a paneled basement. Refreshments would be served.
Is there a better pop love song than "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney and Wings? I think not. Been singing it a lot lately... makes me smile.
Gee my skin looks terrific. Fresh air, natural vitamin D, 300 SPF and good moisturizers.
I don't use the word "dodgy" enough. Must remedy this.
Why did straight up aerobics go out of fashion? I loved that -- it made me feel like I was a dancer. What?
Do kids today (after they get off my lawn) listen to jazz? Do people of my generation? I hope so. Man I hope so. PS:and by jazz I mean the straight up, classic stuff or the current interpretation of that. Not the smoooooooth jazz that makes my ears cringe (yes, I know. Your milage may vary.)
We need a revival in earnest of that Random Acts of Kindness movement. Our world could use a bolus dose of it. Maybe I’ll start it…
Why are the women on House Hunters (that show on HGTV) so damn disagreeable all the time when they look at houses? Is that part of the casting requirements: "must be raging bitch and complain about everything, especially if the kitchen countertops aren't granite, there's only one sink in the master bathroom and the dining room is painted a color she doesn't like."
Does Rhianna own pants? Seriously -- all I ever see her in anymore are those high-waisted modern day granny panties and fishnets. Won't she be cold here soon, if not already? Is she planning to spend the winter months in the southern hemisphere?
Eggnog should be available year round. This "only at the holidays" nonsense is unacceptable.
These are Things I Think About
Labels: Things I Think About
I have always surrounded myself with books. Man, I love those things. I don't ever remember a time when I didn't read. When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was read the novel synopses in the back of the volumes of the supermarket encyclopedias my parents "bought" with trading stamps. I knew more about Tobacco Road than any seven-year-old should have.
Now, that's not to say that I didn't read standard kid stuff -- Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler -- all took up space on my bookshelves. Then there were magazines -- I learned about life from the "Can This Marriage Be Saved" column in The Belle's Ladies Home Journal magazines. Cultivated my love of cooking from Bon Appetit. Read classic sports journalism in Sports Illustrated. I have a good friend from high school whose indelible memory of me from those days is me reading Gone with the Wind. Still have the copy I read then, held together with ancient masking tape.
But all that changed the summer I was 12. I discovered Harlequin romances. Each volume dirt cheap at the grocery store. I wasn't much for the historical versions -- I was more the contemporary romance kinda girl. Even tried my hand at writing one -- my hero's name was Van Doren. Don't remember what the beautiful, spunky heroine's name was, but she was an Olympic swimmer slumming as a life guard at a resort in Florida.
Go ahead and gag. I know I am.
Harlequin romances. My gateway drug. To my still-current dirty little secret.
True Confession I: I love trashy novels. More than anything.
First it was Judith Krantz with Scruples. Then more of her genre. Jacqueline Susann. Valley of the Dolls. Sidney Sheldon. My goddess Jackie Collins. A truly deliciously horrible set of books about a group of deliciously repulsive women called The Crazy Ladies, written by a woman called Joyce Elbert. In that quinella, the "hero" was a pervy physician named Fingerhood. Yes, really.
True Confession II: At this moment in time, I pretty much read only trashy novels. Or silly little murder mysteries.
Nothing of literary value. Nada. It's all fluffier than the cotton candy kiosk at the circus.
Yes, I have a degree in English literature. Yes, I've read some of the world's greatest novels. I love to talk about those books still to this day. And there was a time when I read worthwhile things for pleasure. But somehow I've slid into the lazy crazy habit of not engaging with books that make me think past "wow, that's an interesting sexual scenario" or "my goodness, that woman is a slut."
My literary side right now is the equivalent of a Kardashian.
I am vapid. And I am unashamed.
When you are to the point when you order your beach trash from Amazon.uk, you just need to own it. By the way, just because a book text contains words like colour, glamour and dodgy, doesn't mean it's not a smutty book. It's just posh trash.
Not sure how I ended up here mired in literary muck. Maybe it's been collateral damage from my crazy, stressful life. Or perhaps I still have a little burnout from my crazy college schedule when I would have to carefully read at least two novels a week while holding down a full-time job -- and then have to be versed enough in them to participate in class discussions. Hammering out One Hundred Years of Solitude in a week isn't for the faint of heart. (But oh, what a beautiful book.) Or perhaps it's more that I came to need that discussion and interaction with others when it comes to a book of significane, now that I think about it. I'm a girl in need of a book club. Maybe.
PS: I got my English degree with a GPA of 4.0, thankyewverymuch. And my nine hours of grad school credit -- 4.0. Just for the record. *Cheshire Cat grin*
The new year always heralds a clean slate in terms of personal goals and objectives, hopes and dreams. A full calendar with all its pages on one side of the spiral signifies options and opportunity. Think I might add reading books that might engage something than my endorphins to the list. Add a little protein to the junk food literary diet I've been on. It'll be good for my mind to have something to process so that the mush my brain's become isn't so, well, mushy.
But for every Jeffery Eugenides book I add to the top of my nightstand, for every Chuck Klosterman essay I mentally process, I'll guarantee that there'll be a Jackie Collins or Brit Posh Trash book to match it.
I am woman. I like smut.
The truth is, everyone likes to look down on someone. If your favorites are all avant-garde writers who throw in Sanskrit and German, you can look down on everyone. If your favorites are all Oprah Book Club books, you can at least look down on mystery readers. Mystery readers have sci-fi readers. Sci-fi can look down on fantasy. And yes, fantasy readers have their own snobbishness. I’ll bet this, though: in a hundred years, people will be writing a lot more dissertations on Harry Potter than on John Updike. Look, Charles Dickens wrote popular fiction. Shakespeare wrote popular fiction—until he wrote his sonnets, desperate to show the literati of his day that he was real artist. Edgar Allan Poe tied himself in knots because no one realized he was a genius. The core of the problem is how we want to define “literature”. The Latin root simply means “letters”. Those letters are either delivered—they connect with an audience—or they don’t. For some, that audience is a few thousand college professors and some critics. For others, its twenty million women desperate for romance in their lives. Those connections happen because the books successfully communicate something real about the human experience. Sure, there are trashy books that do really well, but that’s because there are trashy facets of humanity...
~ Brent Weeks
And that's what I like to do on what I call Meme Mondays. Take one of those cookie internet memes/sets of questions and answer them. To share parts of myself, usually in a very self-deprecating way. 'Cause that's how I roll.
The first time I had hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps was in a hotel bar in Lake Tahoe. We were on holiday on the West Coast (Will stayed home with my parents) and while The Mister skied, I did apres ski without the actual ski part. The bartender recommended the cocoa/schnapps combo and by the time The Mister came off the slopes in the late afternoon, I was plowed. So much so that I'd drunk dialed pretty much everyone in my phone -- fun fact: drunk dialing is actually more amusing during daylight hours, at least for the person who's not drunk. It was all fun and games until we had to try and put snow chains on the rental car to cross the mountain pass to get to San Francisco, and I was no help at all. Unless you count making snow angels and giggling helpful.
Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
My mother, The Belle, made a deal with Santa many years ago that he does not need to wrap any presents he brings. I took out an extension on that deal myself when Will was born. He appreciates it, from what I understand.
Colored lights on tree/house or white?
It depends on my mood, to be honest. I was in a "white lights only" phase for a while, but now I rather like the coloured ones, especially on the house. I still like white on the tree, since it provides a nice backdrop for the other tree garnishes.
Do you hang mistletoe?
When do you put your decorations up?
Decorating is a gradual thing around here. I'm not organized enough (hush) to get it done early -- like Thanksgiving weekend early, as so many people I know do. With The Mister travelling during the week, it's kind of catch-as-catch-can to find time to get the tree, et all. We'll probably get the ball totally rolling next weekend.
What is your favorite holiday dish?
Truth be told, my favorite holiday dish is a... jello salad. Yeah. I know. But it's part of my family tradition. I've made it for holiday meals for like 35 years. The dish has the very groovy name of Cherry Salad Supreme and it involves not one (raspberry) but two (either lemon or lime) flavors of jello, layered separately with add-ins like marshmallows and cherry pie filling and whipped cream and crushed pineapple. It's like the antithesis of clean eating. But damn, is it good. Reminds me of my Nana, as I make it in a big glass dish with etched fruit on it that has been in the family for eons. Special place in my heart it has...
Favorite holiday memory as a child?
I honestly don't remember when I learned the truth about Santa, but I did figure it out on my own. However, because I had a younger sibling, I had to keep up the charade for his sake. Heh. Sometimes, it's good to be the oldest.
Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Snow! Love it or dread it?
Y'all. I live in the F-L-A. Second generation native.... I LOVE snow, since when I see it, I'm a mere visitor. It's wonderful.
Can you ice skate?
Honestly, I don't have a favorite gift. There have been some which were bigger hits than others, but every present that I really loved was perfect for me at that particular time in my life. All good.
What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you?
Taking time to embrace the essence of the season -- the Nativity, themes of peace and joy, love and hope. It's a time of celebration and contemplation. For moments of boisterousness and silence. Of music and verse. Reflection of the year just past and planning for the year ahead.
And the presents. Mostly giving. But a little getting too.
What is your favorite holiday dessert?
I really don't have a favorite holiday dessert, unless pecan pie counts. But I do have a great holiday dessert story. One year -- I think I must have been a junior in college -- The Belle decided that we should try something new for Christmas dinner dessert -- an English trifle. Ladyfingers, raspberry jam and custard laced with sherry. What could go wrong? Nothing actually, save for the fact that we somehow ended up tripling the amount of sherry, both to soak the ladyfingers and in the custard itself. Unless you were a little old lady who sipped sherry steadily at the bi-weekly bridge club meetings or The Belle and me, that thing was pretty much inedible. Daddy would come home from work and find us both just sauced after having an afternoon serving of trifle. Come to think of it, that dish may have been the perfect food -- a dessert you can enjoy at happy hour time. Now where's my trifle bowl...
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
I have a much-loved version of Handel's Messiah and copies of the music that we will use to sing along with the recording. I have had opportunity to sing the Messiah (altos rule!) several times with the church choir and it remains my favorite choral piece/presentation for the season. Will has heard this so often that he will chime in when the Hallelujah Chorus pops up -- now that's a lot of fun.
Which do you prefer -- giving or receiving?
What is your favorite Christmas song?
Can't pick just one -- "Joy to the World" is my favorite hymn; "And the Glory of the Lord", my favorite classic piece. Anything by Vince Giraldi. Dean Martin's Christmas renditions. But if I had to pick one, it would be "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," any classic version. Judy Garland. Frank Sinatra. Ella Fitzgerald. I tend to get a little snotty when it comes to my Christmas music, now that I think about it -- I'm picky about what I like in a version. For example, there are myriad versions of another favorite "Baby, It's Cold Outside," yet most of them are just meh to me. Maybe I'll do a post about the requirements to make it to Janey's Top Christmas Hits list.... hmmmm.
Candy Canes: yuck or yum?
Ugh. Don't totally dislike. But not a fan.
Favorite Christmas show?
Saddest Christmas song?
The Jump-Off: Things you can do in three minutes
• Have a quickie *lascivious eyebrow raise*
• Give yourself a facial
• Do a whole lotta crunches (engage your core!)
• Read a magazine article
• Give yourself a ghetto gorilla pedicure
(The Do-It-Yourself part = ghetto. The fact that you get more polish on your toes than your nails = gorilla.)
• Play a game of solitaire
• Saute an onion
• Load the dishwasher
• Do a quick eBay search
• Deep condition your hair
• Pull weeds along your front walk
• Have a mini-one-song dance party
• Sign and mail a “just because” card to a friend
• Read the comics in the newspaper
• Cook an egg -- poach, fry, scramble, etc., etc., etc.
• Make and cool down (from "Atomic Hot) a bowl of oatmeal
• Iron a pair of pants
• Boot up my Macbook Pro
• Brew a cup of tea
• Collect a bunch of shells on the beach
• Do my nightly skincare routine
• Watch a video on YouTube
• Use a set of those Crest Whitestrip things
• Whistle a happy tune
• Surf through all jillion of your cable channels
• Toast a piece of bread
• Fall asleep
• Kill a couple of levels in Angry Birds
• Complete a row of needlepoint
• Stain stick all the spills and stains on your kiddo's school uniforms.
Stay tuned, as this list is fluid... got anything to add?