This ain’t me, but if it were, I’d be fine with it.
This is my 100th post. It’s a post I started at midnight about two weeks ago but fell asleep in the middle of writing. When I woke up the next morning, I was 27 years old, had a 9 a.m. phone interview with a mathematician from Maine, a cover story due about a ballet dancer from Houston and plans to go to the beach (see left) with my best friend Ro and sister Heelya.
The process is usually … how I do I put it?
As a 16-year-old cub reporter (or as my first editor called me, “a stringer”) I would drive home after covering three-hour town board meetings in a rural town where the council members’ various concerns included accidental or deliberate manure seepage by farmers driving their tractors up village roads.
I had to summon an army of self-disciplined brain cells to write about this stuff. When I’d return from these meetings, I typically had two days to produce a story, which I understand is a virtual god-send for daily newspaper reporters.
(I’ve always written for weeklies. I still haven’t decided if it’s because I’m too slow or too intimidated by the pace. I think it’s the latter. Daily newspaper reporters, if they’re lucky enough to still have jobs, can’t afford to lollygag. I have a good friend who works at a daily newspaper in Southwest Florida, who often returns to the newsroom after beastly city commission meetings, and busts ass on a story until midnight with his editor lurking over his shoulder, insisting he call a source who just a week ago announced at a planning board meeting that all reporters are lousy muckrakers hellbent on manipulating quotes.)
So, yes. I write for weeklies. To motivate myself I often set Reese’s Cups beside the computer. For every 300 words written, I get one Reese’s Cup. Depending on the length of the story it’s possible that I’ve consumed an entire 8-pack of Reese’s in just one afternoon.
It’s a motivation/reward system.
Back when I still worked in a newsroom, before I started doing this job from home, I would reward myself with several vodka cranberry cocktails at a bar down the road, where a guy named Nick played Spanish love songs on a small guitar.
The motivation/reward system is precarious. Over the years, I’ve repeatedly failed to achieve many of my personal deadlines, which means I’ve plodded back to the kitchen with handfuls of uneaten Reese’s, pissed off at my lack of ambition, or even worse, my propensity to procrastinate.
I knew I was a glutton for punishment when my high school newspaper internship turned into a reporter gig that lasted an excruciatingly gratifying three years.
Things I used to do the day after town board meetings to avoid pumping out 500 words on the board’s decision to turn down the construction of a telecommunications tower:
1. Walk to the bathroom and put on my mother’s red lipstick. Wipe it off with toilet paper. Reapply. Wipe it off again.
2. Perform handstands against my closet door.
3. Call my friend Ro and gossip about nonsense.
4. Eat dinner with my family extra slowly, impersonating a councilwoman whose voice sounded like Lily Tomlin sucking tennis balls through a vacuum cleaner.
5. Tear out useless notes, crumple them into balls and chuck them at my sister Heelya, whom I shared a room with.
6. Sign onto AOL and submit poetry to writers’ Web sites.
7. Re-read dogeared pages from Alice in Wonderland and type sentences only the Mad Hatter would say.
8. Hold down the fast-forward button on my hand-held tape recorder, amused by how council members sound less irritating as chipmunks.
9. Do homework.
10. Daydream about becoming a marine biologist.
Ten years later very little has changed, except of course that I’ve fine-tuned my motivation/reward system.
Yesterday after finishing a story on deadline, I rewarded myself with an Adirondack chair.
When Joe and I first moved into our house, we pedaled our bikes on a cobblestone roundabout, where we passed a small house with one Adirondack chair in the front yard with a sign tacked to it that read: ADIRONDACK CHAIRS FOR SALE. CALL ###.
I made Joe memorize the phone number and when we got home I jotted it down on a piece of cardboard torn from an empty case of Pepsi. I decided when I was ready to jazz up the front yard, I’d call and purchase a proper chair from a craftsman in my neighborhood.
Yesterday, while blundering through a halfway interesting lede for a mostly boring story, I decided to fish through the kitchen junk drawer for the chairmaker’s phone number. When I called it, an old guy named Ernie answered in a Long Island accent.
“Hey there,” I said. “Do you sell Adirondack chairs?”
“Sure do,” he said.
“You make ’em yourself?”
“Yes m’am. I got two right now. One made out of cypress. One made out of cedar.”
(When he said cedar, he sounded like seeda. Oh, downstaters!)
“How much you selling them for?”
“Listen,” I said. “I’m on deadline trying to finish a story. As soon as I crank it out, I’ll be over.”
At 5:30 I headed over with $125. I wanted a table too and Ernie had suggested he had other bits and pieces of furniture for sale.
When I got to his house, eight blocks away from mine, I knocked on his front door and heard a woman say, “Ernie! We have company.”
Ernie opened the door, shook my hand, and took me to his back porch, where he told me how he makes his chairs using plans designed by some Bob Vila-type guy on PBS, and how he purchases his wood from a guy who lives in the sticks an hour outside of St. Pete, and how cypress is insect-repellent and how he and his wife are going on a cruise next week through the Panama Canal.
“You know much about the Panama Canal?” Ernie asked.
“Not really,” I said.
“Ya know 27,000 men died building the Panama Canal.”
“Yellow fever and malaria. They didn’t know about mosquitas then.”
“27,000 men. Jesus.”
“I know,” said Ernie, wringing his head. “The French tried to build it in the 1800s, but after so many men died they gave up on it and Teddy Roosevelt stepped in and finished the job.”
“Wow, and now we motor up and down it in luxury cruise liners.”
Ernie smiled and hoisted a cypress Adirondack chair into my trunk.
“Do you have a little table I can set beside it?” I asked.
“Sure do,” he said, pointing to a crude plywood table by his garage with a dusty flower pot on top. “I’ll sell it to you for 25 bucks.”
“How about $15?”
He paused for a second, reached for the flower pot and said, “Ahh, alright,” tying the table to the Adirondack chair with a piece of twine and fastening my trunk shut with a bungee cord.
“Where do you live?” He asked.
“30th and 2nd Street,” I said.
“Ah. The center of the universe.”
“Yeah!” I said, reaching into my wallet for cash.
“‘$114,” he said.
I handed him $115 and told him to keep the buck.
He thanked me, tugged on the twine and the bungee cords and declared the rigging safe for at least 10 blocks.
“I tell ya what I do in my Adirondack chair,” he said. “I get me a cold drink and I set it on the arm rests, then I lay back with my feet out in front of me and I think to myself, life is great and I’ve got no complaints.”
PS. I tried to write this post from the Adirondack chair, but it’s too bright in my front yard. Must build porch!
I apologize if I’m late to the game here, but after watching The Insider tonight I learned that Steve-O, the jackass (at left) with a lobster clamped to his tongue, was hauled off Dancing With the Stars by an ambulance last week, after injuring his back rehearsing the tango.
ABC, stop patronizing your viewers.
You expect people to believe that Steve-O, a man who stapled his nuts to his thighs, pierced his ass cheeks together, swallowed a worm through his nose, injected vodka (intravenously) though his legs and pole-vaulted through glass doors, ceiling fans, tables, and trees; Steve-O has a bad back.
ABC, have you no shame?
First you script Bachelor Jason Mesnick’s “change of heart,” then you stick his jilted cheerleader on (surprise, surprise) Dancing With the Stars, and now you’re telling us that Steve-O, a scrawny coke addict who once turned his tattooed body into a human dartboard, has suffered a pinched nerve?
In other news, it’s me and Joe’s two-year anniversary. I insisted he wear his Area 51 T shirt to celebrate the occasion.
Man, he looks adorable in it.
Mail from my Nana is the best thing on earth.
Last month I scribbled her a Valentine on a maxi pad.
In return she sent me this note with a magazine clipping inside.
The note reads:
Just had to send you this article that I received from Aunt Shirl. Oh, how true it is! I certainly remember my first “rubber” Playtex girdle. Several of my friends were sold on them. They flattened your tummy, but pushed the excess up to your boobs. Really a tight fit. It would get mighty uncomfortable, especially if a girl had a large stomach and hips. God, what we didn’t do to try and look glamorous. Nowadays the girls go panty-free!
Well, I just had to get this to you for your Lance. I think it’s an article everyone will enjoy – I certainly did. Have a great week and say hello to Joe for me.Love,
Joe’s in Hampton, Va. for Phish’s first reunion concerts.
And sweaters and loose change and cheap cigarettes
It had been her computer when she was in college. My friend Troy called it my Carrie Bradshaw laptop. Having never seen Sex and the City, I had no idea Carrie Bradshaw had a laptop, much less the fact that it was, according to Troy, a big black one with loud keys. But I thought it was pretty rad that when I was single I owned a Sex and the City prop, a chic accessory for a girl from the sticks.
With my hand out the window
And sing ’til I run out of words
I’m gonna stop at every truck stop
Make small talk with waiters and truck driving men
I’m gonna fall asleep in the back seat
With no one around but me and my friends
It’s gonna be so grand
It’s gonna be just like my wedding day
Ricci and I hung on every word of that song. Blasted it when we’d drive from my bungalow to the public pool to swim laps. Loved that we didn’t need boyfriends to have a wedding song. Loved that the lyrics evoked a sense of bliss some girls only experienced on their wedding days.
I’m gonna stop at every bar
and flirt with the cowboys in front of their girlfriends
Obviously, eventually, we got boyfriends.
Consequently, but not on purpose, we stopped listening to Wedding Day. It wasn’t that we were making egg souffle for our boyfriends while whistling Dixie. It’s just that in general, we spent a little less time together, a little less time driving to the pool to swim laps, a little less time pedaling our bikes, a little less time thinking this song would be our one and only wedding song.
It feels good to give up
So good to be good to myself
I’m gonna get on the highway with no destination
And plenty of vision in mind
And I’m gonna drive to the ocean
Go skinny dipping
Blow kisses to venus and mars
Drink good wine in vineyards
And get asked to dance
I’m gonna be carefree and let nothing pass me by
Never ever again
This song was my wedding song when I was single. It was appropriate. I could relate to it. I could belt it out in cars. I could be single to it.
This is Joe’s senior picture. He graduated from an all-boys Jesuit high school in 1993 when I was 11 years old. I’m weak for bow ties, so you can see now why I fell for him. I needed some information about Lent, so I figured I’d go to the source.
PS. Joe’s senior quote is from Guns N’ Roses‘ Estranged. W.A.R = William Axl Rose. He felt the lyrics were a perfect senior quote. Melodramatic and angtsy … because nothing says Fuck You like a bow tie.
It’s how he wakes up every morning before work – to 20-second blasts of 1980s pop songs.
“Do you come from a land down under? Where women glow and men plunder? Can’t you hear? Can’t you hear the thunder? You better run. You better take cover.”
Who would’ve thought when I swiped this Artvoice mug eight years ago from the dimly-lit, alt-weekly newspaper I interned at in Buffalo, that I’d be sitting in my office, in my house, in St. Petersburg, Fla., sipping Timmy Hos in a blue nightgown and red slippers?
“Buying bread from a man in Brussels.
He was six-foot-four and full of muscles.
I said, ‘Do you speak-a my language?’
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich.”
Although Valentines Day has come and gone, I’m going to put this post up now before it totally gets away from me.
Since I still feel like the new kid on the blog block, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to introduce Lance to some friends, which I did by following new peeps on Twitter. I hadn’t set out to befriend only mommies on mommy blogs, but apparently Lance likes moms.
“Lying in a den in Bombay.
With a slack jaw, and not much to say.
I said to the man, ‘Are you trying to tempt me
Because I come from the land of plenty?’
And he said …”
Not being a mommy, I didn’t think I’d be drawn to mommy blogs (oh, and to one pseudo-daddy blog), but upon further reading, I found myself oddly captivated by these men and women and their child-rearing highs and lows, the likes of which I won’t get into. That’s their job.
Suffice it say, reading mommy blogs has kept me equally awestruck and birth-controlled.
Jill over at Modern Mommy Blog, is a 29-year-old social worker whose New Year’s resolutions include ingesting fish oil every day and avoiding alcoholic beverages. I think it’s refreshing that she broke both of these promises by Super Bowl Sunday, because in my opinion, cutting alcohol out of your life while introducing your body to fish oil sounds grim.
Jill has a one-year-old daughter, and is rooting for Kate Winslet in the Oscars. She entered herself in a Valentines Day contest sponsored by Linda, a scrapbooking, stay-at-home mother-of-three in Mississippi.
On Valentines Day, Jill, the Modern Mommy, spread a little “bloggy love” my way by posting about Lance on her blog, which was so solid of her.
In the spirit of paying it forward, I recommend Modern Mommy to those of you who have children/are about to have children/might one day have children/are parents to pugs (or other such animals)/can appreciate a network of supportive family-friendly folks even if you are crass, self-indulgent and light-years away from having children/enjoy a pretty blog layout with meaningful posts/appreciate good advice and loyal webships (web friendships.)
Oh, and Joe finally woke up around 9:30 a.m., throwing groggy daggers my way in Pat Benatar’s battlefield.
“We are young, heartache to heartache we stand.
No promises, no demands …”
PS. My father gave my mother 1,600 lb. of corn for Valentines Day. After receiving such an awesome gift, she helped him lug the corn bags into the basement to dump into their corn burner hopper.
This one’s for my Nana.
We were sitting around the kitchen table Christmas night – my mom, my sisters, Nana and me. And for whatever reason PK got on the subject of homesickness.
She remarked that she has good days and bad days. That some days, no matter how many romantic comedies she watches, or how much chocolate ice cream she eats, she cannot shed the veil of homesickness that shrouds her every move.
Because I’m hard-headed and fail miserably at making my sisters feel better when given the opportunity to do so, I didn’t tell PK that when I was 22 and living alone in Sarasota, I Googled the distance between North Collins, N.Y. and the Gulf Coast of Florida. And that every time I cried out of homesickness, I’d remind myself that 1,269 miles is pretty good chunk of space.
Putting my pangs of sadness to good use, I wrote a math equation.
For every one mile I was separated from my family I would devote one day to giving Sarasota a fair shake. Rounding up slightly, I divided 1,269 miles by 365 days, giving myself 3.5 years to make a go at in Sarasota. If after 3.5 years I was still sad as hell, missing home, or craving a new adventure, I’d throw in my beach towel, pack up my things and leave.
But of course I didn’t tell my sister any of this as we were sitting around the kitchen table. Because the happy ending to this story is, after 3.5 years I met Joe.
Instead it was my Nana who piped up.
“I was terribly homesick when I was living in Arkansas,” she said.
Dumbfounded, we asked, “WHAT? Arkansas? WHEN?“
My Nana – who raised her family next door to her sisters’ houses, across the street from her brothers’ houses, and literally within footsteps of the house she grew up in – lived in Arkansas. Arkansas? I don’t think even my mother knew Nana lived in Arkansas.
Captivated, my sisters and I urged her to continue with the story, the likes of which goes something like this:
Nana’s father owned grape fields stretching the length of Brant-North Collins Road. Nana and her six brothers and sisters grew up in these fields. And if they were doing poorly in school their father, my great-grandfather, would pull them out of class and stick them on the farm.
My Nana, the middle child, was whip smart, with a wicked sense of humor, and strong arms from playing softball and picking grapes. When Nana was 18 her father sent her to Sturkie, Ark. for the summer, where he owned a strawberry canning factory with his brother, Louie.
“Dottie,” he told his daughter. “I’m too tied up in local affairs to travel south. I need someone to keep an eye on the Arkansas factory.”
My great-grandfather had gotten wind of some shady dealings in Arkansas, and Nana, being whip smart, was as good an ambassador as any, so he sent her.
It was 1950, and Nana, together with a girl named Vicky and a guy named Vinnie, crossed the Arkansas/Missouri line in a dusty Cadillac with the windows rolled down.
Nana, wearing a sundress and feeling ridiculously independent, remembers pulling over for breakfast at a diner with fly strip-yellow lighting. She remembers Vinnie, who was older, perverted, and a friend of her fathers, muttering under his breath that if the waitresses’ tits weren’t rubber, he’d eat them. She remembers she and Vicky slapping Vinnie’s hands away when he went to pinch the waitress’ ass, and she remembers thinking: my father sent me to Arkansas with this creep?
She was dating my Papa at the time, so of course she missed him and wrote him letters every day. When she heard that he was dating someone else – another girl named Dorothy – she brushed it off, because, as she says, “the other Dorothy wasn’t a threat.”
One time, Vinnie handed Nana a letter. He asked her to drive it to a post office in St. Louis, Mo. Any post office, so long as it was in St. Louis. Nana says she figured the guy was fooling around with some lass in Arkansas, but that his wife back home thought he was in St. Louis. Whatever the situation, she didn’t care. It was nice to take a break from strawberry canning and get behind the wheel of a Cadillac.
When Nana got back to Brant, she scolded Papa for “philandering around,” (with another Dorothy no less.) Two years later she and Papa got married. They had five children, including my mother, the second-to-the-youngest, who was born in 1960.
Nana says she found the other Dorothy’s sweater pin in Papa’s possession, and that Papa tried to pawn it off as a gift for her. But she knew better.
She held onto it for few years. It was after all, a name pin, and Dorothy was her name too. Whenever she’d see The Other Dorothy around town, she’d think, Ha! I’ve got your pin at home. But eventually she lost it, threw it out, or whatever happens to things like that.
As she talked about Arkansas (“It was awful. I couldn’t wait to come home.”) her eyes sparkled. Sure she was homesick, but I could tell, the memory of her independence thrilled her.
For the helluvit, I Googled the distance between Sturkie, Ark. and Brant, N.Y. It’s 946 miles. Or by my coping calculations, two and half years.
PS. Happy Birthday Nana, four days late.