Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Good News / Bad News Edition

The bad news is we cut down the ancient box elder tree in our front yard. It provided much-needed shade in the summer and a tidbit of privacy from the neighbors, but it had also recently developed an unfortunate habit of randomly dropping giant, 100 pound limbs onto the sidewalk. Small children and that old lady who takes forty minutes to walk past our porch were in danger. So the tree had to go.

The good news is I’m already working on its replacement. Shouldn’t be long now!

Grow little seedlings! Grow!

The bad news is that Daisy barks uncontrollably whenever my husband sneezes. Since he has recently contracted the bubonic plague, I now live in a house made of barking.

The good news is that soon it will be thunderstorm season and she will have something else to bark at.

The bad news is that I had the taxes prepared today.

The good news is that with a little soy sauce and ginger, they tasted great.

The bad news is that I haven’t heard anything from the book review people yet.

The good news is that no news could be good news. I am thinking of distracting myself by taking up a new hobby. Such as knitting a line of sweaters with the tumbleweeds of dog hair that have been blowing about our house since fall. Or maybe I could just make a book trailer. Sounds easy, right?* What do you think? All the cool kids are doing it. (Happy launch week, Lisa Daily!) Maybe a montage of road trip photos set to a Shins tune. I’ve got a few road trip pics, but certainly not enough to round out an entire trailer. (Speaking of which, I’m ashamed to admit it wasn’t until I was in college that I actually understood what a movie trailer was.)

Anyway, how about you? Got any good road trip photos? You know, of you riding a giant metal donut in Poughkeepsie, you and your brother peering out of face cut-outs in the Corn Palace. (Oh, yes! I did this! Two years ago!) If you have these kinds of photos, and you’d maybe-possibly be down with their inclusion in a book trailer, let me know in the comments. I can hook you up with a very limited amount of fame and fortune. I’ll also send you a little thank-you giftee, of course.

Don’t worry, it won’t be a dog hair sweater.

Daisy is wearing this season's warm, form-fitting and stylish belted answer to last year's stale cardigan sweater. Hairy, slightly stinky, and coarse, this is one sweater you won't want to be without. But hurry, supplies are limited!

*Said the techno-savvy girl who just figured out how to send a text message on her cell phone.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mail Fraud

I love getting mail. Love it. Even when my mailbox is simply stuffed with junk and bran-scented Lillian Vernon catalogs and dead leprechauns, I love it. Because once in awhile, a free sample sneaks a ride into my house via some catalog or another: a packet of herbal tea, a teeny disc of soap, an industrial-sized vat of Astroglide. You just never know what the mail will bring! And tonight brought an especially exciting moment, courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service:

A hand-written note addressed to my husband!

“Look!” I shouted, handing over the quaint lil’ envelope with the blue ink-scrawled address, “You have real mail!”

He scowled, suspicious at such good fortune. Who could possibly be writing him in such an old-fashioned yet thrilling mode of communication?

I waited eagerly while he tore into the letter and pulled out a newspaper clipping. A yellow Post-It was stuck to the top of the folded page. It read: “Jason--Check this out!”

And what exactly were we being asked to check out?

An ad for a local auto dealership.

I started laughing, and didn’t stop for nearly twenty minutes. Because first we imagined some poor salesman (let’s call him Todd) sitting at his desk, handwriting Post-It after Post-It: “Ed! Check this out!”… “Jim! Check this out!” ... “Stu! Check this out!” (Plus handwritten addresses.)

“You know what would have made this even funnier?” my husband asked. “If the guy had written, ‘Check this shit out!’”

Oh my God, why can’t I live in a world where things like that happen?

It struck me as even funnier at first because we suspected the entire audacious sales pitch was a joke being perpetrated on us by our friend Scott, who two years ago thoughtfully decorated our sidewalks with handwritten lyrics to various songs by Poison, Whitesnake, and Bon Jovi. Last week he hauled a 25 pound block of ice two blocks to our driveway and placed it in front of my husband’s car along with a note reading, “This block of ice weighs 25 pounds and came from Bruce’s driveway. Love, Scott.”

My favorite part of the story is that he took the time to weigh a giant block of ice in his house. On a bathroom scale.

Anyway, I don’t know if you’re reading this Scott, but I have a fantastic idea. And it just may be coming to a mailbox near you.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On Taking the Good with the Bad

Despite an abundance of things to write about, I have hit a wall, mostly because I’ve been spending my days and nights and weekends churning out the grant proposals. You know, what I do for a living. I like to call it “Hogging all the hot water in the creative pockets of my brain.” Which have been pretty linty and empty lately as a result.

I could write about the flat tire I got last week, which was remarkable only because I haven’t gotten one ever, in my life, despite regularly driving over curbs and broken bottles and small children on bigwheels.

But who wants to hear about that?

Do you really want to hear about how my local grocer’s bag boy (We call him "Subway’s Jared 2.0") insists on always making a comment on my transaction? Last week, on my canvas bags: “Wow, you have bags from everywhere.” Two weeks ago, on a bag of Flat Earth veggie chips: “You know, I’ve tried the fruit ones. They weren’t that good.” Tonight: “You know, for an instant soup, this is pretty healthy.”

I could recommend a half dozen movies I’ve seen and enjoyed lately (The Namesake, Once, Sunshine, Into the Wild, The Darjeeling Limited), or tell you about music I’ve been listening to on my iPod (Radiohead’s OK Computer, Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations, the soundtrack for Once), or dishes I’ve cooked lately or reunions I’ve had with old friends or plans I’m making for the release of my book.

Holy Sh*t. I have a book coming out.

I go through my day doing the usual day-type activities (brushing my teeth, commuting to the office, working on my life-size macaroni and glue portrait of the Pope), and every once in awhile I will remember That I Have A Book Coming Out Soon and a feeling that can only be described as a cross between exhilaration and terror will curdle in my stomach. I just need to remember two bits of advice I recently gleaned via the always eloquent, always angry, always scary-intelligent and intense in a Hot-Guy-Way Henry Rollins.

Well, the advice didn't come from him, but from two guests on his show.

Very loosely paraphrased from the talented and brilliant Steve Buscemi, on pursuing your art (acting, writing, painting, etc.) in the face of criticism and public scrutiny: “When someone tells me they want to be an artist, I tell them, ‘Be sure you love it. Otherwise it’s just not worth it.”

Also loosely paraphrased from the kick-ass and amazing Joan Jett, on that same criticism and public scrutiny: “To believe the good reviews, you have to believe the bad.”

So. I steel myself and try to internalize this advice. Because they’re on the way, from Publishers Weekly and maybe Kirkus and Library Journal. From magazines and newspapers and bloggers and most importantly to me, anyone who walks into a bookstore and shells out money they’ve earned to be entertained by a story I told. This is a privilege, and a serious job, and I take it as such. I also happen to love it. So if the book contains a few too many plot twists or bad words or it doesn’t go all Samuel Taylor Coleridge on your ass and make you “suspend disbelief” for 350+ pages, I apologize. I’ll work harder next time. I promise.

But still, if you happen to pick it up in a bookstore in two months, I do hope you like it. And bless your darling heart if you do.

Also, my dog pulled some tripe out of her food bowl today and rolled in it and it was hilarious. I guess I could have written about that instead.

Monday, March 03, 2008

C'mon, Get Happy!

Let’s talk about love. Just a little bit. On Saturday mornings, I have a routine. I sleep in (schedule and dog needs permitting), get up and enjoy some coffee and oatmeal with raspberry jam and sliced almonds, and set about trying to organize the mountains of crap that have accumulated in my house into some semblance of order. While I clean, I listen to Whad'Ya Know? with Michael Feldman on the radio. It’s a quiz show, for those not in the know, and last weekend one of the questions went something like this:

Researchers recently discovered that people who have been married a long time are generally: a) less happy; b) more happy; or, c) if you have to ask this question, you have never been married.

Care to venture a guess? I actually guessed correctly: more happy. And I think I know why. Because by the time you’ve been married a ‘long time,’ several things have probably transpired: the toxic friends that constantly tried to corrupt your spouse have died of liver failure or lung cancer…your spouse has developed arthritis and can no longer operate a video game controller…your spouse has groused and bitched and gossiped so much they burned out their vocal cords…your spouse has developed some kind of illness that has turned them into less of an asshole because now they’re all reflective and every time they fart Mitch Albom puffs out and stains the couch. Also, you are now long beyond wanting to invest any time into landing a new ‘life partner,’ because the rest of your life is maybe ten more years and frankly, who has the kind of time to sift through annoying first dates when you’ve got a colostomy bag and only ten more Thanksgivings on deck? Not to mention you’re … how to put this delicately…well, your special girl or boy parts have probably seen better days. You’ve basically given up, because with your blood pressure, making a fuss is just not worth it anymore.

Okay, okay, I’m being a little cynical. You have also weathered many storms together. You have raised a family, or a series of dogs and inside jokes and home remodeling projects together. (Don’t worry mom, my girl parts are still in working order. There’s still hope.) There is, if you’re lucky, a deep and abiding feeling of affection for the person you have battened down the hatches and celebrated victories and analyzed thousands of movies and current events and family milestones with.

My grandparents had the kind of love affair you see on TV and either cry or get bitter over. After my grandfather died of cancer in 1997, my grandma spent years signing birthday cards just like this: Love, Grandma and :-). She couldn’t bring herself to sign his name, but she couldn’t bring herself to sign just her name, either. She lit a candle in his memory before every meal, and I have it on good authority that they still enjoyed “special alone time” long after they received their AARP cards in the mail.

They were a shining example of the “C’mon, Get Happy!” vote. Perhaps they’re actually in the minority, perhaps it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows and walks on the beach, but they sure did make it look easy. So here's to the wisdom and happiness in love that age brings. It's almost enough to compensate for the wrinkles and that colostomy bag.