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Archive for July 2012

Giving Knowlege, Inner Peace and Happiness the Finger

My friend on the subway. What?

I am mostly – fairly content. I attribute this truth primarily to the fact that I don’t have toddlers or a “real job.” But every now and then I find myself enmeshed in what most of you call “normal life” and between the stress (over deadlines), disappointment (about things not going my way), anxiety (about everything) and lack of time (to sleep and/or eat – but mostly eat) I find that my blood pressure rises, the hairs on my arms stand on end, and my pupils dilate. In other words, I get pissed off. Ok, I sometimes get pissed off even without the stress, anxiety and hunger.

The thing is about the times I get pissed off, whenever they may be, is that I also have this irritating little voice on my shoulder telling me that I don’t deserve it. Getting pissed off is for people trying to live peacefully in war-torn countries. It’s for people who have worked hard their whole lives but then end up unable to pay for cancer treatments because they got fired when they missed too much work for having cancer. It’s for Suri Cruise who so didn’t ask for that parental unit.

But me? First World problems all around. Take Monday: Walgreens called Aaron to let him know that we had forgotten to pick up some pictures we’d had developed in March. We couldn’t remember what they were. So yesterday he went into Walgreens to get them only to be informed that they had been, along with their negatives, shredded. I flipped. I was so mad I was plotting conversation points that included things like, “You must be so pleased that in your worthless life you’ve been given the opportunity to shred other people’s meaningful ones!”

I decided this morning that I’m not going to go in and say that, or any other line to anyone. Because, unlike me, that person hasa real job and potentially toddlers. This isn’t to say I’m not allowed to get pissed off. I mean, it’s all relative, right? But who do you blame when the world gets so big you start to wonder which person at Walgreen’s is responsible for my shredded negatives? And what’s my own culpability? I mean, they told me I had 24 hours to come in and get them. So someone got a little handsy and threw my photos in the shredder a few hours early. I was, after all, the one who forgot them in the first place, am still not really sure what they’re of, and definitely didn’t miss them yesterday…

A sewer pipe, like my anger, slicing through the sands of time.

When I was in college my father was dying of an unthinkable illness. So “unthinkable” in fact, it had never even been “thought.” It remains to this day unnamed, although we are getting closer to understanding its origin. But, I mean, come on! Who gets an unnamed illness besides like one person once on one single episode of House? No one. No one gets that. I remember being 21 and going out for drinks with college friends who were lamenting bad dating experiences, feeling frustrated by horrible classes, hating the cafeteria food, when all of the sudden they’d get quiet, look at me and say, “I know this is nothing compared to what you’re going through.”

It was absolutely true. No two ways about the fact that the cafeteria’s lack of mayonnaise was, as richter scales go, maybe rumbling a 0.3. But that’s the thing about life. Getting pissed off is bad for the blood pressure. It’s not so good for the digestion. But it is, as an animal, unable to distinguish between a Walgreen’s fuckup and genetic mutation. It doesn’t let you decide what will break your heart or what should make you fall down laughing.

I am over the pictures (But seriously Walgreen’s. I’ll see you in hell!) but I’m gonna let it slide that I cried for about two and a half minutes last night over them. I have a book deadline in a week and a half, company coming on Tuesday and am showing early signs of heat stroke. Maybe I needed a cry. It happens.

 

 


New York City: Where Accessories Rule

Did you dress yourself in the dark?

The other day in the subway, a young man walked by me wearing the following items: A fire-engine red trucker hat, a white t-shirt with a huge Mickey Mouse likeness adorning the front, a wood bead bracelet, knee length cargo shorts, gray Addidas kicks with black stripes, and then socks. Socks, you say? What’s the big whoop about socks? How complicated can socks be? You either wear them, or you don’t wear them. They can be stripey or mismatched. They can be colorful or plain. Maybe you make a funny roll with them or simply fold them down.

But I’ll tell you, this subway kid’s work with socks was borderline magical. He wore knee high athletic socks in a basic white cotton. Then, over top he wore a thinner red pair precisely and carefully torn. I am not doing this outfit justice in my description and I don’t have a picture so you will have to take my word for it when I say: The kid pulled it off.

I too see the inherent impossibility in that last sentence. I too am shouting internally, “Oh come off it, Jos! You lost me at Mickey Mouse!” We are all probably thinking. “Come on. Knee length cargo short? Where do you think you are, San Diego?”

But, here’s the thing – there are just some people who know exactly how to accessorize. Even if you personally can’t imagine wearing that ermine stole with the plastic beady eyes, when you see it around the porcelain neck of the girl with the amazing Veronica Lake hair you almost wonder if you could. (You can’t.) Like me and once trying to pull off a cotton candy pink bobbed wig with straight fringe, even though my face is shaped like cantaloupe and my skin is often the color of an oompa loompa…

Someone’s mommy accessorized her.

On my walk home from lunch with my really amazingly accessorized friend Molly I passed a lady wearing head to toe eggplant purple. But the worst part of her outfit were the bright purple shoulder length feather earrings hanging from her lobes. (On the other hand, as I passed her I couldn’t help smiling at her even as I had the thought, “How can one not smile at bright purple feather dangly earrings!” I’m pretty sure there’s a law that you can’t.)

I have never been good at accessorizing. This is not a lament. You needn’t pat me on the back and tell me how cute my every-finger-turquoise-ring phase was. But ever since I moved to New York, I have become increasingly aware of how poorly I am at adding a necklace or a barrette to an outfit and making it work. My friend Molly mentioned above, always has perfect hair, exquisite eye make up and is completely masterful with a thrifted skirt – but she is also someone who comes up with descriptors like “origami of tragedy” and then weaves it into casual conversation – so she’s practically perfect across the board.

I mask my accessory-shortcoming by hanging out with Molly and other really well-accessorized people – and Aaron. My husband uses zero accessories accept for one tasteful wedding band. But he always seems to be dressed well because, in addition to such simplicity, he also only ever wears the same four things in rotation, some of which he owns in multiple colors. But when I see pictures of him at 16 I realize it might be less that he is fashion savvy and more that he has spent years perfecting a look.

The hottest, best accessorized girl I know.

Maybe that’s what everyone’s doing. I fail because I become easily distracted and suddenly find myself wearing a lot of Swarovski crystals rather than honing in on one “statement piece.”

Living in hipster central has forced me to play it cooler than normal. But it isn’t easy. When I see the girl in the subway with a shaved head and needles in her earlobes and think, “I could pull that off,” I have to take a minute, shake away the thought and watch for the next amazing accessory to walk by. And lipstick. Sometimes I just distract them with lipstick.


Burning Bridges or Bad Manuscripts

The kid in the middle dies for no reason in this movie which feels wrong.

Last night Aaron and I watched one of those movies where every few scenes someone in the audience (us, because it was a DVD) looks at the other person and goes, “They have got to be kidding.” And by “They” we mean the literally hundreds of people who take part in the making and approval of the making of a movie. Like seriously, someone had to have an idea, then that person had to spend hours and hours writing down that idea (in the case of this movie, I’m going with minutes and minutes). Then someone has to read or hear about that idea and go, “That’s a really great idea! Let me tell my dad who has a lot of money!” Then that dad has to be all, “I’ll front three million but you’ll have to find investors for the rest of the fifteen million your great idea requires.” Then another fifteen rich guys have to get suckered out of a million dollars a piece. Then you have to cast the thing…

So you see where I’m going with this. It takes a village. And sometimes, because that village maybe got too big – or maybe the idea was sort of craparific from the start because it was about a group of teenage boys getting a super power (flying) and then not really having anything happen – but anyhow, that movie just got away from you.

Working in a creative field I am often shocked by the mediocrity so many people let slip past. In a world where time is money, most people don’t have time to care (I hope you read that in the voice of Don Lefontaine). I have been hired for several projects with such impossible deadlines as “in three days.” Not for articles but for complete manuscripts. The reasoning I am usually given is that we need to strike while the iron is hot.

I have written the majority of my books in a matter of weeks. It’s my fault. I agreed to the projects under the guise that I wanted to write, that I would write anything so that I could get my name out there, so that I could say “I wrote that!” no matter how steaming the pile of crap…

Someone who wouldn’t sell out and someone who looks like him.

Then last month I was hired to write “50 Shades of Sex.” I was given approximately 35 seconds to write it. The reasoning, it was explained, was that we had to strike while the iron was hot (and pressed in an erotic way against the pretty-young skin of a 22 year-old, if we want to stay within the theme of that 50 Shades of Gray book- we don’t.) The book was to be some kind of sex guide for Midwestern housewives who wanted to experiment with a little light sadomasochism in the bedroom. My qualifications were this: I could write fast and I would do so for very little money.

You might read into that last sentence that I went into the whole project already bitter. I figured that in all the times I had speed written and then put my name on projects I wasn’t entirely sure reflected my real ability (imagined or not) to craft a masterwork – or even, as was more often the case, sucked – at least I was writing. However, this publisher had already landed me in a position where I was being asked to take my name off of projects because a few of their earlier projects to which I had (willingly, I know) attached myself, had done so poorly.

So I went in feeling a little bit owed, like if I pulled off this book in 30 seconds someone needed to say a really big thank you and throw me a parade.

Instead I got into a really big fight with the editor on day two. (I was exaggerating when I said 30 seconds. I meant 5 days, but who’s counting?)

I believe that both of us were fighting a lot of other people during that fight. I imagine as a woman working for a publisher that demands projects with deadlines that include 5 day deadlines must run into a lot of pissed off writers. As writer who has agreed to work on a series of projects with said 5 day deadlines, I don’t think I’m being coy about coming into this thing pissed off.

This funny-looking fish could probably write some of my books better if given more than a week.

So we fight and I say a lot of things including, “Seriously? You think it’s okay to kill trees for this?” And she says, “We really need to strike while the iron’s hot.” And I say, “Won’t the iron still at least be lukewarm if we give it say, a week?” And she says, “Maybe you’re not the writer for this job.” (See qualifications for “writer for the job” at the end of paragraph 5, above.)

After I quit/got fired (tough to say which since I started the fight with the line, “I’m not sure I’m the writer for this job” and she ended the fight with the very same line…) I sat for a minute, sort of flushed, a little bit surprised. Not that I should have been. The job wasn’t about me. I wasn’t hired because I have any skills beyond a willingness to lower (bottom out) my expectations. And yet, I was already three chapters in. I’d gone from getting a few dollars for them to no dollars.

That’s what made me the angriest, at least initially. Then I was mostly mad at myself. I was frustrated that I had burned the bridge. I was mad that I had done all these jobs so that I would have this contact, get hired every now and then to write a book, crappy or not, and be that girl who could write fast, no matter how poorly…

Then it hit me…I don’t actually want to write poorly. I don’t want to write the movie about the kids with the cool super power who don’t do anything with it. I want to write the movie about the kids with the cool super power who do something amazing and memorable and totally worth the time of the hundreds of people who helped you make the movie. (That’s a metaphor. I don’t -necessarily- want to write a movie.)

So maybe I had to burn that bridge with that publisher so that I wouldn’t be distracted. Maybe this was the start of something more important. Or maybe I just totally destroyed my career. Whatever. At least I got a blog out of it. That’s something, right?