Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Things I’ve Learned in the Month of August (Post #113)

  1. When you unpack your newly-purchased nectarines and place them on your kitchen counter to ripen, they will mold in approximately 28 seconds.
  2. When you ask the Food Service Powers That Be to at a local restaurant named after an automobile popular in the 1950s to substitute a Gardenburger for a regular hamburger and your waitress asks if you want your Gardenburger in 1/3 or half pound size, it’s a pretty safe bet that your meal will have once ambled around, mooing.
  3. Little Miss Sunshine is one of the most hysterically funny movies I’ve ever seen about drug abuse, suicide, family dysfunction, death, failed ambition, and dashed dreams. Seriously—go see it. It’s a heart-warmer. Greg Kinnear’s character? Best. Character. Arc. Ever.
  4. When the “news” (quotes intended to the fullest extent of the law) includes headlines with the phrases, “Never hug a Swiss Cow!” or “Bong hits for Jesus,” look around. You just may spot the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Or at least a spot of pestilence.
  5. Beware of large unleashed dogs. Even if they’re named Maggie and have a fluffy, shiny black coat and wear a cute, disarming bandana around their neck. Especially then. Just ask Daisy. She’ll tell you. Well, not in words so much…more through a series of canine yodels, whines, soulful looks, and a sorrowful limp while buttscooting across the carpet. (Please note: Daisy is not limping, nor is she buttscooting. But she is writing a strongly-worded letter to Maggie about the incident.)
  6. When the fate of your book is uncertain—and this can include everything from the agent querying stage all the way to a potential orphaning at your new publishing house—there is a great chance that you will develop several unattractive anxiety-related habits, including a state that can only be described as the opposite of hygiene, insomnia, poor eating habits (gnawing an entire block of cheddar while watching Meerkat Manor? Not healthy! Not attractive!), and an inability to maintain a normal conversation because your attention span is shorter-lived than either Carnivale or Deadwood (Damn you HBO! Damn youuuuu!!!)
  7. If you wish to remodel your home, know this: it will always take longer than you think. And there is a 98% chance that you will discover something unpleasant behind the walls, ceilings, or floors that will necessitate your parting with more money. This discovery may or may not include a tribe of Mold People or a series of bad construction decisions made by the previous owner while sniffing molten plastic fumes. But our garage is up! I can park in it and stack plywood against the walls like a real Suburbanite and everything. Hooray!
  8. Rats! Judging by the size of the poop pellets* littering our back doorstep, we may have a rat. (*They are the size of scuba tanks. Scuba tanks for giants.)
  9. Sauerkraut should NOT have the consistency of applesauce.
  10. I can’t think of number ten, because I’m fixated on number eight. I am so grossed out right now. Seriously.

The list is over, go in peace. Have a relaxing, labor-free Labor Day.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hold the phone, stop the presses, pause the DVD, reverse sun damage, halt memory loss!

Major news today. My editor is leaving HarperCollins for Random House. What does this mean for Riding with Larry Resnick? I’m not sure yet, but so far, it’s not good news for my digestive and nervous systems. I just got off the phone with my agent, and she’s in the process of sorting out our options. There’s a possibility that the book will stay at Harper, and there’s also a possibility that it will move with my editor to Random House. I don’t know what this means for the book’s publication date or format.

I. Am. Freaking. Out.

Okay. Deep breath. This is actually fairly common in publishing, I’m told. Editors change houses frequently; sometimes books and authors go with them, sometimes they don’t. I hope that I’ll continue to work with Jill, as I adore her. And I am incredibly lucky to have a terrific agent in my corner. I’ll let you know more as the situation develops. Or deteriorates. In the meantime, I will be arranging the following supplies on my desk: a paper bag, a vat of aspirin, a tub of TUMS, a case of whiskey, an MC Hammer CD (to remind myself that it could always be worse), and a framed picture of Tom Cruise (again, to remind myself that it could always be worse. I could be batshit crazy.).

Ah, what else. Oh, I sprained my ankle! Was I: a) rock climbing at High Cliff State Park; b) training for the Fox Cities marathon; c) assaulted by a gang of rough-and-tumble first graders at the park; or d) jumping three lousy feet from my stair-less back door onto our new driveway?

If you answered d), you win a prize! It’s an invisible gift certificate to TGI Fridays. Anyway, the ankle’s healing nicely, but it upset my plans for sharing a Very Special Blog Entry with you. I wanted to post some photos of graffiti recently spraypainted on an elderly couple’s garage, because I thought it would be entertaining and crime-fighting all at once. Unfortunately, I’ve had limited mobility for the last few days and haven’t made it to their end of the neighborhood.

Basically, one wall read “Ninjas of One!” and the other played canvas to a giant, top-heavy penis. The latter looks especially lovely next to the stained-glass angel hanging in a window. I still don’t know if the homeowners are aware of this recent burst of artistic tomfoolery, but I do know the city has arrested about five hooligans in connection with this latest rash of no-talent vandalism.

Speaking of tomfoolery, there was another incident of domestic violence across the street earlier this week. This time it involved vigorous shouting, slap-fighting, and chair-throwing between siblings and Dad on the deck, in full view of the general public. Months our new neighbors have lived in their home: three. Visits by the police in that timeframe: five.

Can I move now?

On a brighter note, last night I saw the cutest animal ever invented. A baby miniature pony. Seriously, it was so cute that tears actually welled in my eyes. I am still upset we didn’t have our camera with us.

And finally: 100 second-shifters at a cheese factory near my parents’ place recently won the $208 million Powerball jackpot. I love this! But I do feel for the first-shifters that weren’t in on the pool. (Including the parent of one of my childhood friends.) To dish how you would spend your lotto winnings, visit Eileen Cook's site.

Now, I'm off to nurse my angst-iety by looking at more photos of cute miniature ponies online.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

This Post is for the Birds

I hope mid-August finds everyone well. I myself, um, I haven’t been feeling the best. In fact, I suspect, based on my symptoms and the recent discovery of several dead and dying birds in my neighborhood, that I have West Nile Virus.

I hope I’m wrong, but you know me. Always suspect the worst. Especially after discovering four recent mosquito bites on my legs, waking up with a daily headache, and hearing my dentist say to me on Monday, “Oh, your tonsils are really red and swollen! Looks like a classic case of West Nile Virus.”

Which only confirmed my suspicions.

(Okay, she didn’t say that last sentence out loud. I added it in my mind.)

Plus, two of the dead & sick birds were chickadees and one was a nuthatch, which immediately sent me into a spiral of depression. Why can’t the fucking sparrows disappear? Why does it always have to be the cute birds?

Goddamn mosquitoes.

Despite my headache and overall feeling of shittiness (and did you know that another symptom of West Nile is excessive swearing on your blog?), I will attempt to lighten your day with a story about my parents. As I mentioned in my last post, it was my mother’s birthday this weekend. So of course we celebrated with the traditional telling of stories designed to embarrass their progeny.

Our family dog, Suka, is a fourteen year-old Springer Spaniel. She’s incontinent, deaf, arthritic, and apparently, very territorial. On occasion, my dad urinates in the backyard (they live in the country, thank god. You can do this if you live in the country). He claims this is for convenience and to lessen the burden on the septic system. (What you’re hearing now is the faint sound of me laughing.) He recently noticed that whenever he pees outside, Suka will immediately hobble over on her arthritic legs and pee over the spot where he just did, marking her territory.

So, of course my parents decided this was a prime opportunity to have a pissing contest. Literally. My mom bet my dad that Suka wouldn’t pee over her spot, opting to urinate only over my dad’s. My mom claimed that she was top dog, and Suka would respect that.

I’ll give you a moment to digest this.

And wouldn’t you know it, she lost the bet.

Moving on. Earlier in the day, I helped celebrate my friend Wendy’s birthday in Madison. (There was a twofer special on birthdays last Sunday.) A number of old friends joined us, one of whom had just attended a wedding the night before.

Do you know that in certain parts of Wisconsin, it is a great honor to be asked to “Drive Car” for a friend or family member’s wedding? To “Drive Car” means you wear a carnation boutonniere and chauffer two members of the wedding party (which can be as large as 15 couples in some parts of the state) from bar to bar between the ceremony and reception. Most of the time when you “Drive Car,” you get to drink, too.

I can’t tell what my favorite part of this concept is, but I do enjoy the dropped article.

It’s also common around here to “drive bus” or “drive truck” for a living. As in, “Doesn’t Henry Gellings drive bus?”

“No, you’re thinking of Jim Flood. Henry Gellings drove truck for Michel’s the thirty years.”

(Note the intentionally absent “last” between “the” and “thirty.” In Wisconsin, this is another word that is frequently implied but rarely used.)

Which reminds me. Is Barstool Racing common at taverns in your city? How about Pitcher Races, where the teams have names like “The Christ Punchers” or “Ueker’s Pukers” and first prize is … more beer?

Well, back to obsessing over my swollen tonsils. I’m going hiking tomorrow, so I do hope for a break in the malaise. If I get some good photos, they'll be on the blog shortly. I hope to be back to my regular blogging schedule in early September, after I have a good chunk of book numero dos under my belt. And after I get over my West Nile Virus.

Suka. She's a real pisser.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Updates Galore!

Two things.

One, I worked out yesterday for the first time in months because I refuse to keep buying pants larger than those now on my person, and at this very moment my right hip feels as if it may fall off, may completely detach itself from my body, and what a relief that would be. My torso feels as if it’s been stretched on the rack, and that’s not too far from the truth. Because I broke down and actually purchased the self-contained, boxed fitness system created by The Firm. If you’re familiar with the system, you’ll know that it contains a stepping / torture device known as “The TransFIRMer.”

I love that. It almost makes up for my inability to sit upright today. The only way it would be better is if they'd called it "The FIRMster."

Two, I finished my revisions and spoke with my editor last week, and it appears the publication of Riding with Larry Resnick may be moved to spring of 2008. In the meantime, I will be working on the next book and freaking out about a wide variety of things that will likely provide good blogging fodder.

I hope.

So I’m currently sporting ill-fitting shorts (that I hope the TransFIRMer will eventually make somewhat less ill-fitting) as well as mixed emotions about the delay in my book’s release. But as a baby amoeba in the publishing pond, I am trusting in the literary powers that be. Neurotic, compulsively sharing* mess that I am, I’m sure I’ll keep you posted on the developments. But in the meantime, let the navel-gazing continue!

Actually, I can’t bend my neck to look at my navel right now.

Tonight, I travel to Milwaukee for dinner with my sister and later, my first work-related meeting in months. The first fact makes me smile and the second, well, it makes me frown in a slight way that tells you two things: a) I’m not so thrilled about working during my time off and b) I’m grateful to have this job at all. So, it’s kind of a reluctant grimace.

Also, this weekend we’re building our garage with help from my industrious and gracious in-laws and two of J’s burliest friends. I’ll be the one taking pictures, making snacks for everyone, and saying, “Boy! You guys sure are working hard!” every fifteen minutes.

It’s also my mom’s birthday this weekend. What to buy the woman that brought me into the world, two weeks late and ornery as hell, and actually speaks to me today despite the hormone-addled ogre I became between the ages of 13 and 16? Hmmmm…something tells me a fart machine just won’t cut it.

My mom is extremely practical. When asked what she’d like for Christmas one year, she actually replied, “Oh, I don’t know. A pot holder?”

So I got her a framed black and white print of a solitary tree in a snow-covered field. Unfortunately, I glued my bows on the wrapped package with some kind of industrial adhesive that leached through the paper and left unattractive scuffs on the picture beneath. My mom hung it on the wall anyway, which is a testament to her awesomeness. Plus, she still displays a bunch of crap I painted back in 1984: faceless ceramic Amish kids sitting on a bench, a quilted bear (also ceramic), an apple crate lid with a wooden goose, half-basket of dried flowers, and wooden “Country!” logo all glued on in an approximation of lameness, and an acrylic painting of more faceless Amish kids on a beach, feet buried in the sand and hands in pockets because, as I have limited skills in the visual art arena, I can't paint feet and hands. Talk about your cowsuckers!

Anyway, I’m open to suggestion, if you have any. A gift more impressive than those given by my siblings is a plus.

*As evidenced by the “My dad calls you a Polack!” phone greeting of my youth.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A New Way to Waste Time!!

So. Have I mentioned I don't have air conditioning?

I actually came in to WORK today, despite being "off" for the next month because I needed to breathe air that has been conditioned to feel nothing like that which is striking down birds and the elderly OUTSIDE my building.

Regarding the book, the end is in sight. Revisions have been completed. Celebratory beer has been drunk. Next up? A final read-through, resubmission to my editor, and contemplation of book #2. Now if only it will cool off enough to allow me to regain access to the part of my brain that hot weather shuts down. You know, the part that writes sentences that don't suck.

Today I fielded a question from a fellow writer regarding whether or not she should submit her work to a particular literary agency. I went to their website, and goodness, all of the red flags popping up! It was like an exploding mailbox convention. Here's a line from one of their emails to an aspiring writer seeking representation, "explaining" why they don't share their client list: "Sometimes we think that there is a higher incidence of psychosis among writers than any other occupation."

Really? Wow! Gee, I'd be flattered to be represented by an agency that holds writers in such high esteem. I had to wash my hands four times after clicking around their site.

In other news, my best friend is in Norway, the crotch. Just kidding, Cindita--you know I love you. Also, I've been spending valuable writing time lately considering the top ten "essential" movies in each genre. Horror, comedy, drama, indy/cult, suspense, sci fi, documentary, etc. (Apparently, heat activates the part of my brain that likes to fart around and make useless lists.) Anyway, if you had to list the top ten comedies of all time, what would you pick? Comedy can be very relative; what's funny to you may not be funny to Bob Dole. In fact, he might find it offensive as hell. So take all of this with a grain silo of salt.

I'm still pondering my list, but my criteria includes a sense of timelessness: do people quote the movie extensively? Is it still funny decades after release? Is this a movie you should watch to participate in a cultural phenom, to experience a particular zeitgeist, to understand what the hell your nephew is talking about?

Here are a few I thought of: Best in Show, This is Spinal Tap, Caddyshack, Animal House, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Tootsie, The Life of Brian, A Christmas Story, Young Frankenstein, Office Space ... then you have your Annie Hall, Fargo, Garden State, and The Graduate types of films, but they could almost be categorized as that lovely hybrid of drama and comedy with the eyeroll-inducing name: "Dramadies." And then there are movies that have camp/over the top/kitsch value: Pee Wee's Big Adventure, The Jerk, Something about Mary, Orgazmo, Kingpin, Napolean Dynamite, The Big Lebowski, Airplane! and on and on. I haven't even begun to consider movies made prior to the sixties...I know, it's all so complex. So please, I implore you to share your list.

*Please note that listing Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit may melt the entire Internet.