Category Archives: Three minute read

My life through the songs I’ve screamed

Chapter 1: Edmond, Oklahoma-“Under Pressure” by Queen

I was concurrently enrolled at the local community college my last year of high school. This was not, as most people assume, because of my insatiable love for learning. I took college classes because it  gave me a shortened school day that I could use to work on my television-watching hobbies.

My house was roughly a four minute drive from the high school and yes I drove every day. I’m from Oklahoma–unnecessary wheeled transit is what we do best.

On the way home from school my last semester in Oklahoma, as soon as I got in the car I would blast “Under Pressure” by Queen. I had to get the timing just right, in order to match the song with the drive. I loved nothing more than getting in every little “Umm ba da” or “Dee dee dee dee” right along with Freddie and then screaming at the very end, right as I was entering my neighborhood “WHY CAN’T WE GIVE OURSELVES ONE MORE CHANCE.”

As I was pulling into the driveway, “This is our last chance, this is ourselves, under pressure…….” And then I would switch off the ignition and run inside and make a cup of noodles for lunch and watch an episode of one of my hobbies.

Chapter 2: Boston, Massachusetts- “Endless Rope” by Patty Griffin

I went to college at Boston University with no time to transition out of a crush with a German man 5 years older than me or my ongoing crush on Conan O’Brien. I was also unprepared to be lonely and uncertain of where my best friends were. This led to me to identify with songs by Patty Griffin with lyrics like, “Say goodbye to the old streets that never cared much for you anyway…different colored doorways you thought would let you in one day” or “Sometimes all I can do is weep weep weep with all the rain coming down.”

I often found myself walking back to my dorm late at night. The street would be mostly deserted and the night city felt like a secret. One of my favorite things to do while I was walking alone beneath the street lights and watching the stoplights turn green and crossing in the middle of the road was belt out the song “Nobody’s Crying.”

I would scream the end of the chorus, “Just have this secret hope, sometimes all we do is cope, somewhere on the steepest slope, there’s an endless rope, and nobody’s crying.” Note: I was never crying when I sang this song. Note: that’s probably not true.

Chapter 3: Cairo, Egypt-“Rolling in the Deep” by Adele

My second apartment in Cairo was located about a 20 minute walk from the nearest metro stop, a 20 minute walk along a highway that I would take every morning and evening.

In order to pass the time and forget my unfortunate location in an exhaust cloud on the freeway, I memorized songs, one of which was Rolling in the Deep. I would sing it at the top of my lungs while weaving through traffic, and go somewhere else in my head. I believed no one could hear me from the noise of the traffic, and I never felt more free than when the sun was setting and I could hear myself above the chaos screaming “YOU HAD MY HEART INSIDE OF YOUR HANDS” against the honks and the vrooms and the noise of a revolution settling.

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The Mask’s Inside, Dummy

Amsterdam.

Sitting at a café on Geary and 6th Avenue. I’m in San Francisco, dummy. This is the part of San Francisco that tourists don’t come to because Geary looks like a highway and is lined by things like lamp shops, which are uninteresting to the visitor but for people who like to read a little bit in bed before they go to sleep and also sleep nightly in the city, lamps are of a certain kind of appeal and necessity and knowing where to purchase one is even more crucial.

Last Saturday, I want to a masquerade-themed party in Oakland, at my friend’s house where there are trees outside every window and spiders weave webs wherever they can, and there are tubs of things like spelt flour in the basement. Freaking hippies. I made a mask by smearing glue all over a pre-made plastic mask from Michael’s and sprinkling sequins on it. It took about 5 minutes. My primary goal in every craft project is to finish it. I’m not great at crafts.

The party was fun, but it was surprisingly hard to talk to people wearing masks, not being able to see their faces or mouths moving, to calculate if they’re joking or if I went over the line with my last comment. We depend so much on everything besides words, so don’t you forget it. That’s why I thought I wouldn’t get the job at an interview because I was blinking too much. Did I seem nervous? Unprepared? Bizarre and/or inhuman, like the algorithm that controls my blinking was out of whack?

And then at the party I was talking to a girl/woman/lady/chick/gal about why I’d left the field of International Relations. She’s in law school, trying to decide between international law and intellectual property, and she wants to have a career she finds meaningful and help people. And she asked me “what’s Oklahoma like” and I droned on about obesity and chain restaurants before she got bored and wanted to take pictures with everyone else. I was bored of the subject too so I was glad to leave it but I was left with a taste in my mouth like doubt. She seemed so smart and passionate and should I go to law school and do something sexy like maritime law and defend the lives of refugees? Is that even what they do?

She was dressed as what she imagined to be a woodland elf and I got the impression she wanted to be that free-spirited-pixie girl, the one who is brilliant but also fun and spontaneous. Did she even know what it takes to be a woodland elf? Would a woodland elf go to law school and try to figure out what kind of legislation helps the most people? Would a woodland elf even care? Depending on how nerdy you want to go, it’s possible to theorize that because elves are immortal, they would view the suffering of others as so temporary as to not be worth their time. So there.

And my facebook status hasn’t been getting as much traction as I would have liked.

Is it about the journey? Is it possible to get to what you think you want to be, even when it’s proven that most people know nothing until they’ve turned 50 and it seems like it’s too late?

Join me over the next decades and we’ll find out!

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I Immediately Regret Doing This: Draggin’ Aspen

The blogosphere is full of weirdos, cat-gentlemen, and Craig’s List posters. In the milieu of what can be a terrifying and terrifyingly unfunny land, there is an oasis, a sweet haven of laughter and quality humor writing that is called The Byronic Man.

I asked the proprietor of this quality weblog to guest post for Snotting Black, another hilarious and altogether exceptional humor blog, on the topic of “I immediately regret doing this.” He came through in spades and sweat. Read on. And then go to his blog. And then come back to mine. Then get a sandwich.

I’ve certainly been there before. As in sleepy, not exerted.

Draggin’ Aspen

I ran in a half-marathon a couple weeks ago, called the Haulin’ Aspen (Get it?  It’s a pun!).  I enjoy running and have done one half-marathon before, but would not ordinarily have considered running in this one because it is notorious for being one of the toughest trail races in the area.  Very dirty.  Lots of hills.  Sharp switchbacks, some of which are very narrow and on jagged rock.  A rollicking good time, right?  But a friend suggested is a kind of group activity, so, hey, I figured, why not.  We’d tough our way through this thing together.  Toast our awesomeness with a beer afterward.  So I signed up.

Short version: I wound up being the only one who actually signed up for the race.  Call this Bad Omen/Regret Milestone #1.

That morning turned out to be the hottest day this summer.  It was hot before we even started running, and a number of people stood around muttering, “I thought we’d get at least a little time before we were actually too hot.”  Bad omen/Regret Milestone #2.

I had run the course a couple times before, which was helpful, and made me in to a prophet of wisdom and faith beforehand as we milled around the starting line.  “You’ve seen the course?” two women asked.  “Is it as bad as they say?”  “Yea,” I replied, “Verily, it is true that there is about two and a half miles of straight uphill in full sun, but thou must have faith that an aid station waits at the end with Gatorade and gel packs.”

Side note: those gel packs they give runners – if you’ve ever seen those – why are they all like ‘chocolate cream’ and ‘apple cinnamon’?  Who the hell’s jogging along in the heat and thinking, “Man, a big piece of grocery store pie would really hit the spot right now”?

Then we started running and immediately closed in to a narrow, dusty path.  Vision obscured.  Dirt inhaled.  Sun pounding.

It was pretty immediately clear: I’d made a mistake.  This would not be the last time I’d have this thought.  The heat was brutal, the dirt was thick (there would come a moment where I’d blow my nose and dirt would come out.  Not brown mucus – dirt).

There were definite stretches where things were looking up… until they looked up for that two and a half miles in full sun on the hottest day in the summer.  We can call that the Turning Point from “Regret Milestone” to “Mother F***er…”

The kicker of this race is that trails aren’t quite long enough, so you get so close to the end that you could hit the people crossing the finish line with a rock (which was tempting), and it’s directly in front of you… and you take a sharp right to run another mile and a half.  Now that’s just mean.

I finished, so I suppose there’s that.  I’ve done one before, and on that one when I hit the 12-mile mark I kicked into gear for that last mile.  Hoo-ah, and all that.  This one when I hit the 12-mile mark I was puttering, thinking of activities I might take up besides running, and trying to remember the signs of heat stroke.  I was not alone.  We looked like that moment in the horror movie when the protagonist looks out the window and sees the zombies shambling down the street.

But I made it.  I didn’t even check my time, I just stumbled around looking for fluid – water, beer, vinegar, mustard, whatever.  I did have a beer, but there was no toasting of personal awesomeness, only the desperate need for fluid and carbohydrates and, hopefully, death.

I’m proud of myself for getting through it… but I keep waiting to think, “Ah, I’m glad I did it.”  And… I’m still waiting…

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Sage Advice for Young Writers and Bloggers

Renee of Life in the Boomer Lane is a former hula hoop champion and a writer that keeps a hilarious blog, one of those blogs vampire blogs wish they could suck dry. Recently I asked her to write something for Snotting Black on the advice she would give to a 23-year-old wanting to be a writer or a blogger. She graciously agreed and sent me a really beautiful piece that I found touching, informative, and jealousy-inducing because of its depth and wittiness. May it invoke similarly complicated responses in all of you.

I’m not worthy.

Sage Advice for Young Writers and Bloggers

The first thing I did when Emily asked me to guest write a post for her blog was to be amazed that anyone would want to take such a risk.  The second was to look at the topic: what I would tell a 23-year-old who wanted to be a writer or a blogger.  I did a quick calculation and discovered that in the intervening decades between age 23 and where I am now, I have lost approximately  239 lbs and gained approximately 259. My hair has changed color and style 41 times, and my bra size has gone from 34B to 34D. My shoe size and hat size have remained constant, but my height has decreased by 1.5 inches.  Two husbands appeared, but not at the same time. Small beings in my immediate vicinity have appeared, gotten larger, and eventually disappeared. One has now produced two small beings of her own, thereby assuring me that in the distant future, after I am gone, someone will look at photos of me and wonder why people looked so funny back then.

Writingwise, the decades have contained fiction and non-fiction, some self-published, some published by others.  A couple contests were won. A short story was read on NPR.  Many rejections were collected. A blog was started a little over two years ago.  None of my writing has made me famous, and very little of it has made me any money at all.  All of it seemed of value when originally written, but not all of it withstood the test of time.

So, back to the topic: What would I tell a 23-year-old now, about wanting to be a writer and/or a blogger?

The good news is that you are coming of age at a time in which anyone has easy access to self-publishing.  The bad news is that you are coming of age at a time in which anyone has easy access to self-publishing.  Chances are overwhelming that the only way you will see your work in print will be because you put it there, not because you are discovered.  Chances are also overwhelming that you won’t get paid for what you write.  There are way too many writers out there, really good writers, happily giving their words away.

Most people who are currently successful in publishing are online.  Print magazine subscriptions are plummeting, while Huff/Post is thriving.  The Kindle has passed the vibrator as the #1 sex toy for women.  So throw out your dildos, and whatever you do, do it online.

Just because you have a passion to write doesn’t mean that the world is waiting for your words. They are too busy stockpiling water for the Armageddon or watching Bachelor Pad 2 or standing in line for the next iPhone.  Whether you have a publisher or not, the only person who will market your book is you. If you don’t create a demand for your book, there will be none.

The easiest way for a literary agent to assess the quality of your work is to ignore it.  Literary agencies throw unread manuscripts into large boxes and anyone who has time on their hands can take free reading home.  Few people do. If you want someone to actually read what you submit, you are going to have to be very creative and very diligent. In other words, you are going to have to do more than send out query letters.

Like book writing, people aren’t waiting for your blog posts, either. Building up a blog readership can be ridiculously time consuming, and, just when you are patting yourself on the back over having 1000 followers, you discover someone who has 10,000 or 100,000 followers and they aren’t famous, either.

Freshly Pressed is like a one night stand.  A hot one night stand, yes.  A one night stand that will make you shriek and rock you to your toes and back again. But it won’t last longer than that.  You won’t be able to take it home to introduce it to your parents.  It might ask you out again for more one night stands, but on subsequent romps, no matter how spectacular, some part of you will know the deal.  You will know that in the morning, you’ll be alone again, and Freshly Pressed will be gone, off to fondle another blogger.

The bottom line is that you won’t listen to any of this because you really, really believe in the depths of your soul that you have what it takes to be a writer.  You believe that what you write will be the next Big Thing.  You believe that the world will take a texting break in order to read what you have written.  And thank goodness for that.  Because after the marriage and the mortgage and the mayhem of child rearing, you might set the writing aside, in favor of more pedestrian pursuits.  And that would be a shame.  Because you might have been the one to beat the system.

P.S. from Snotting Black: Isn’t she great? Visit her blog! Give her a high-five!

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What My Birthday Means for You

There’s that sassy birthday girl!

We all know what my birthday means for me. In general, it means I’m better than you. But it also means I’m one year more awesome, one year funnier, more intelligent, and more beautiful, one year more likely to contract various kinds of diseases and arthritis, one year closer to retirement, and one year more likely to purchase a Buick and complain about kids these days.

But what does my birthday mean for you?

If you’re my triplet sisters, it means you need to call me and tell me happy birthday as we once again celebrate/lament the fact we share the same birthdate and have been doomed to splitting the potential stock of birthday presents by three for decades.

If you’re my parents, it means you need to remember to send me money. A call would also be accepted.

For relatives, see above minus the calling part. A card will do.

If you’re the 16-month-old that I babysit, it means that you’re going to be catering to my every whim and desire today, trying to calm me down when I throw tantrums, taking me to watch the dogs at the dog park and letting me touch every single one, especially the vicious-looking one, and catching the food I spit out in your hand.

If you’re a blog reader, it means you should either a. write a blog post naming 20 things you like about my blog or b. tell me how great I am and say happy birthday in the comments.

If you’re one of my East Coast friends, you need to remember the 3 hour time difference and try not to call me before 9 am (12 pm) because, as Solomon said, “A loud birthday call in the morning will be regarded by the neighbor’s as a curse.” Or something like that.

If you’re my friends on the West Coast and don’t live in the Bay Area, you should express your regrets that you couldn’t visit me on my big day in order to present your very large presents to me. These presents can be mailed, and you should probably rush them first class so I can open them sooner.

If you’re my boyfriend, things get a little tougher. Not only must you call, but you’re also required to present me with the birthday gift of my dreams, the thing I mentioned off-hand a couple of months ago when we were walking out of Dillard’s and I’m not sure if you heard me or not but that was really the only thing I wanted and if you didn’t get it for me I’m going to be really upset, but I’m not going to tell you I’m mad, I’ll just be kind of stand-offish for the next couple of weeks and repeatedly say I’m fine and nothing’s wrong. So…I look forward to receiving, cooking, and burying it. Hint.

And if you’re my friends in the Bay Area, go to the ATM right now and get some cash because you’re going to be buying me drinks tonight! It’s fun for everyone!

Thanks in advance for all the birthday wishes! It’s my day!

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