Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mad Men Me, Please

Why did you let me wear that? I can remember asking my mom that question several years after the purple eyeshadow fiasco of my seventh grade year.

She gave a nonchalant laugh. It was in style.

But not the way I applied it. I didn't wear any other makeup, besides Bonnie Bell Dr. Pepper Lipsmacker, so there was nothing to offset that thick stripe of chalky purple.
The eyeshadow,
itself looked like a large, wind-up purple crayon, and I passed it around to share with my friends in front of my locker. I can vividly remember having made one too many applications of the purple mess, and feeling my eyelid actually stick and catch for a second on the skin under my eyebrow.

I had many sad fashion mishaps, where my kindly mother just looked the other way.

A couple of them ended up in class pictures ... like the one-piece floral romper, paired with unfortunate bangs, and finished off with scuffed up orthopedic-strength saddle shoes. But in my own defense, I hated those saddle shoes with a passion. I got my sting-ray going full speed
down sixteenth street and used the toes for brakes, hoping and praying that my mom would buy me new ones. But she'd just hum a jaunty little tune and apply a couple more coats of beige shoe polish. Those things could withstand a nuclear war.

Two years later, I moved up to the suede version of my saddle shoes, and my fashion
forward mom made me the mini dress which had the potential for awesomeness, but ... the hair ... Marcia Brady gone very wrong. And then I had to go and accentuate the ensemble with the thick orange yarn ribbons and the brown stop sign glasses.

Ten years later, you would have thought I would have learned. Or at least
gleaned some of my mother's fashion sense. But I'm pretty sure some synthetic animal
died for this sweater. And
no matter what anyone tells you ...
a mullet is never the right answer for a new
How could someone who dresses like this:

have a mother who dressed all amazing and Mad Men like this?

Sadly, I'm starting to worry that I take more after the Joad side of the family.

Thanks, Great-Grandma. You could write like there was no tomorrow, but I'm concerned about the accessories.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Nerd Anxiety

You may have played the game before. It has several variations on the theme: What's the worst thing you've ever eaten? What's the scariest thing you've ever seen? What's your most embarrassing outfit from high school?

Writers love to play this game. It can get really creative and cut-throat, so much more than your average game of Scrabble or Mystery Date.

The last time I played that game was with a group of writers at a conference. Someone asked, If you could only have one book of fiction to read, what would it be?

This created a stressful anxiety cloud over the group. Nobody wanted to be the one to answer first, and the game just fizzled out. I'm pretty sure it was because that question created Book Nerd Anxiety. It's not difficult to raise the anxiety level of a book nerd. All you have to do is to make them recall how they felt when they'd finished all of their library books on Monday and their mom wasn't due to take them back to the library until Wednesday. Noooo!!! My heart is racing just thinking about it. I couldn't re-read one of my Nancy Drews. It just wasn't done! Once I already knew the secret of the old clock or I'd discovered the clue of the tapping heels, it was past news. There is nothing that has lost its magic more than an already-read pile of library books!

I was at Defcon 12 with my book nerd anxiety this week. I was in the Azores on vacation with my family. My husband's parents are from there; it's a group of island off the coast of Portugal and everyone speaks Portuguese. All I can say is yes and no, and a mangled version of thank you. You may see where I'm headed with this ... all the books are in Portuguese.

And I had read all of the books that I had brought. In case you haven't yet grasped the gravity of the situation, I'll say it another way. I. WAS. ALL. OUT. OF. BOOKS.

There was rumored to be a little cafe/coffee shop on the Air Force base on the island, and my husband wanted to go check it out. The thing is, we almost didn't stay, because there was a little boy using a dead cockroach as a soccer ball. I almost didn't discover the magazine rack on the back wall. The magazines were worse than the doctor's office variety, the most recent being from 2010. Just when I was going to resign myself to reading seventy-five different ways to make a chicken casserole, I saw it. It was a bookshelf. A bookshelf full of paperbacks. I could have imagined it, but I was pretty sure there was one of those misty, glowing lights surrounding it.

Before we left the Air Force base, I made my husband go back to that coffee shop. I was on a mission. I had one of the paperbacks that I had brought with me on the trip; the one I had finished reading that morning. I put it in a prominent location on the bookshelf and left. The whole way to the airport, I imagined someone discovering it. Someone who had run out of books to read. It made me nerdily happy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In Which We Have a Family Vacation in the Logan Airport and I Try to Get Arrested

I think I'm starting to hallucinate. I've had about two and a half hours of sleep. I thought I was going to a little island, in the middle of the Atlantic, off the coast of Portugal. Sounds amazing, right?

But the closest I've gotten is some angry people speaking Portuguese in the middle of Logan Airport.

Our plane is supposedly broken, so a ten o'clock in the evening departure ( last night), turned into a 3:00 a.m. departure, which turned into a 10:00 a.m. departure...which turned into me still here at the airport longing for my Tempur-pedic and making u
p things to do in Terminal E.

I could eavesdrop for ideas for my novel, but that would require my husband to translate for me, and he is, quite frankly, undependable. Portuguese was his first language, and he should have no trouble translating conversations fro
m the homeland, but my husband has been known to tell a few stories, himself.

Which brings me to my new favorite game I like to call, "Will They Arrest Me If? There's still time to join the game--so come on down to Terminal E. Here's what you've missed so far...

My daughter is trying to round up an elderly Portuguese man in a hat to flash mob with her, and she is now planking around the terminal. She'll either get arrested, or end up on You Tube.
I've moved all my stuff to the luggage belt at the check-in counter. They won't give me my luggage back (it's still on the broken plane), so I've made myself comfortable--comfortable enough to take a nap, if they turn off the don't-watch-anyone-else's bags warning and the canned music.

As soon as they open the Duty-Free shop, I'm going to figure out how many perfume and lotion samples I need to apply, before the family of twelve feels the need to vacate their pri
me bench location next to me.

Face it, spend a little sleep-deprived time in the airport and the world is your oyster. It's lunch time on day two and I think I'll go a little crazy and live a little. I'm going to have one of those eight pound Toblerone bars from the Duty-Free. It might cost me a couple hundred, but it'll be worth it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The One-Up and the P Word

So I'll admit it...I've been known to eavesdrop. But it's okay--I'm a professional. It's part of the job description. Writers have to write authentic, believable dialogue, right? Yesterday, at the soccer field, was a perfect opportunity. At first I thought there was a fight breaking out. But I soon realized it was merely a "one-up". Here is how it went:

Five-year-old #1: "He's Mr. Big Ears!"

Five-year-old #2: "He's Mr. Big Ears Poopy!"

Five-year-old #1 (Determined not to lose): "He's Mr. Big Ears Poopy Head!"

Five-year-old #2 was unable to respond, because he was laughing uncontrollably when the P word came out. He was also looking nervously, and a little frantically over his shoulder for his mom.

There are definite rules and specific game strategies for the one-up. You have less than a second to respond--any delay in action and you forfeit to the other player(s).

If the one-up is of the insult variety, the player has to make sure they drum up the worst word possible, while staying in the safe realm of the Webster's dictionary (the one that sits on the big podium in the library--no online pseduo-dictionary words allowed.) Also, if a parent is within earshot, said word must be strong enough to only get you in the minimum amount of trouble--say, a knock-it-off look from yours, or someone else's parent. (The five-year-olds at the soccer field were definitely riding the line on that one. The P word is not one to be used lightly.)

If the one-up is of the I'm-cooler-than-you variety, player has to make sure they toss out something sort of believable, but not too over the top. If you're not sure what I'm talking about here, just listen in on a conversation between a few of the dads at the soccer field. I'm not talking about the nice, mild-mannered Dads shouting out, "Good job!" from the sidelines. The ones I'm referring to are easy to find. They're standing so close to the sidelines, no one can see past them. They are multi-tasking--carrying on their one-up while barking out "coaching" tips from the sidelines, and offering up friendly advice to the refs. You'll also be able to spot them by clothing. They may have come to the field right from work, but they managed to do a quick change into their soccer shorts from high school, so as to appear more professional in their one-upping and sideline coaching. Unfortunately, they are sometimes still wearing their work socks and shoes.

In case you are still foggy about this kind of one-up, I'll provide an example. We'll use a high school aged girls' soccer game as the setting:
Dad #1 (He toes the sideline and pushes his shorts down a little, because his post-post high school waistline is pressing at the waning elastic. ): "My daughter's looking pretty good out there. She's only a freshman, but as soon as the coach
learns her last name, she'll be off the end of that bench and starting."

Dad #2 (Quick nod, which is the equivalent of the oh, yeah?): I don't think you were here yet, but did you see my daughter at the warm-up? She was really moving that ball. I saw the coach looking at me when she was sprinting up the field. He probably heard about my game back in '87.

Unfortunately, Dad #1 lost by forfeit. He was unable to go on, because Five-year-old #1 chucked a Nerf ball from behind and he was doubled over with a hamstring injury.

Five-year-old #2 clinched the competition when he pointed at Dad #1 saying, "He's Mr. Big Mouth Poopy."