Wednesday, December 31, 2008
So, this being the last day of the Gregorian year, I should probably get back on track. This is a blog about writing, and I’ve had some people ask me lately what my book is about, so maybe I should post a little something about it here. Hmm, but where to start? How do I summarize it without sounding…uh, weird? I’ll give it a go:
The Prophecy of Days
More than 2000 years ago, when Paris and London were nothing but shoddy villages, the Maya were building immense cities and practicing advanced math and astronomy. After their great culture was destroyed, one cryptic legacy was left: a set of 20 prophetic calendars. The most important of these, the “Long Count” calendar, ends mysteriously on Dec. 21, 2012. For thousands of years the surviving Maya have had their Daykeepers tracking the Long Count daily, all leading up to this end date. What is meant to happen between now and December 21, 2012? This is where The Prophecy of Days picks up.
The Prophecy of Days is the story of Caity Mac Fireland, a funny, tech-savvy girl from San Francisco whose parents drag her to an isle off the coast of Scotland to manage some family property. Caity finds that a Mayan relic is concealed there, intentionally left centuries ago by Mayan Daykeepers. After seeing Cortez land on their shores, burn their books, and destroy their culture, the Maya secreted this relic away in an attempt to keep their profound knowledge alive into the current era.
As she delves into this world of secret information, Caity is helped along by a visiting family friend and Feng Shui master, Uncle Li; the castle groundskeeper, Thomas; a Mayan elder named Bolon; and Mr. Papers, a pet monkey that communicates through origami. A handsome Scottish lad gets pulled into the intrigue, as do several other people with questionable motives and loyalties.
Caity must weave together a tapestry of information in order to make her radical discovery, a mystery protected by an elite coterie of power-brokers who influence world events and world economy. Caity’s twenty-first century mind is put to the test as she tries to uncover the answer to an ancient riddle while trying to outwit this powerful group that will stop at nothing to control the secret, and her.
Book one of a two-book series The Prophecy of Days is a story rooted in science, myth, and ancient knowledge.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
I first met Barbie Head Man at the Oregon Country Fair, a three-day barter, craft, and music event held just outside Eugene every summer. This is a place where time stands still; the people you see attending today look just like the people who attended 40 years ago when it began. Heavy on hair, light on deodorant. Acres of tie dye.
I hate dust. The Oregon Country Fair, with its 45,000 attendees traipsing through woods, involves a lot of dust. So when a group of women dressed as faeries tripped lightly by with spray bottles of water and asked if I wanted a spritz, I welcomed the gesture. What I didn’t know is that these faeries treated their water with tabs of acid, and that potent LSD can be absorbed through the skin. Needless to say, it was an interesting day. I experienced the best burrito of my life, appreciated jazz for the first and only time, and met the Barbie Head Man.
Barbie Man always wore a sarong and had a rope necklace on which he tied Barbie heads. This made a lot of sense to me that day at the Country Fair; I saw it as something akin to a candy necklace—when the mood strikes you just bite one off. Apparently, the mood struck often and he routinely had to go to the emergency room to have the heads removed as they could not make it past his stomach. His abdomen was fiercely distended that day at the fair. I think he'd been on a bender.
Barbie Doll Man was a gentle soul, a lunatic to be sure, but not one of those stark raving mad homeless guys who runs around swinging a waddy and yelling obscenities. When you gave him a buck every now and then you knew he was far more likely to spend it in the doll section of Goodwill than in the malt liquor section at 7-11.
My senior year, Barbie Doll Man was killed by a city bus. Legend had it that one of his prized Barbie heads rolled into the street and he couldn’t bear to watch her get squished so he ran out after her. I’m not sure exactly how it went down, but I knew the corner of 13th and Alder would never be the same again.
Thanks to writer Sarah Frances of Plot This, who recently posted an eerie set of photos of mangled Barbies she’d discovered around her yard, including the photo on this post. This exquisitely bizarre photo took me right back to Eugene, circa 1987. I suppose you could legitimately call it an acid flashback. Unintentionally imbibed, of course.
For an interesting ode to the Barbie Doll Man of Eugene, check out this short bit on the Future Tense Books website.
Friday, December 26, 2008
In my defense, I blame my parents. They started me early—my father booked appointments for each of us with a renowned local psychic when I was just 14. Not that my dad is some kind of hippie; at first glance you'd assume he was very conservative. He held a job with a large corporation and went to mass most Sundays, but he’s always had a healthy fascination with the dark side. He grew up going to Catholic school so naturally he was in to anything macabre. The shelves of his study were crammed with books on crime families, the supernatural and medical anomalies. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the subject of hermaphrodites came up at least once a week in our house. While other kids were reading their Golden Books, my sister and I were looking at grainy pictures of elephantiasis.
So the psychic thing was not such a stretch. In fact, it was probably inevitable.
We arrived at the psychic’s home, a normal-looking house in a newer subdivision, in our Oldsmobile sedan. Only when the door opened did things start to get weird. We were greeted by a man in a wheelchair who introduced himself as the psychic’s brother. He was ferrying three small white dogs with yellowed beards on his lap, and although he was dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, he was also wearing rouge and a woman’s wig. This was not a long, luxurious Cher-style wig but rather a short, curly gray and white wig that a woman in her 80s might wear—what my grandmother would call a “wash and set.” At first, I thought the hair was his own until I caught a glimpse of the flesh-colored mesh cap that anchored the wig hair.
He welcomed us in and asked us to sit on the couch where we would wait for our individual appointments. The smell of dog pee permeated the house and I followed Mom’s cue of sitting while having the least amount of contact with the couch. I wondered if my parents were having second thoughts about toting their young daughters to a psychic who lived in such slipshod conditions and may or may not have some unseemly relationship with the rolling dog ferry who calls himself “the brother.”
As the youngest, I was allowed to go first. On my way in, Dad slipped me a dollar and instructed me to walk up to the ice cream shop when I was finished; they would all join me one by one. As I prepared to enter, I tried to recount all of the ice cream flavors I could remember so he could not read my mind and hear the voices in my head that said Run! The guy’s a fraud! A slob! Quite possibly a pervert!
I walked into his office and was greeted with the wet, toothless grin of an elderly man sitting behind a small white desk that was so short his belly could rest on the edge of it. He wore a tight plaid shirt, kind of cowboy style with pearl snaps and curly stitching on the pockets, and he twiddled his thumbs. I had never seen someone actually twiddle their thumbs before—I’d only seen it used as physical punctuation after a joke about being bored. His hands were large and rough so the twiddling made a sound like nylon-clad thighs rubbing together. I said hello while chanting Butter Pecan, Heavenly Hash, Strawberry Cheesecake over and over in my mind until he said, “Why did you stop playing the violin?”
His question stunned me. Two things ran through my head: Oh my God, he can read my mind, I had better not think bad thoughts, and Oh my God, he can read my mind, maybe now someone can understand me. All of a sudden the need to be understood, the yearning for someone to really know who I was eclipsed the fear of having someone read my mind. “Can’t you see how awful I was?" I responded.
I had played the violin for three years but my playing was remarkably unremarkable. I used my mother’s childhood violin so I thought my playing was extra important to her. One day I mustered up the courage to tell my parents that I was going to stop playing the violin and would be taking an extra science class instead of orchestra. They just shrugged and complemented me on my practicality. It became clear to me that my playing was as painful to my family as it was to me.
“Is it important that I play? Are messages coming from my music?” I asked, thinking that angels might be speaking through my strained rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, one of the few songs I could play by heart.
“No, I can see that wasn’t the creative outlet for you. But you must remember that what you produce is not as important as the creative effort behind it. Remember that. Now I see beautiful writing. Lots and lots of beautiful writing.”
This delighted me. My new passion in art class had been calligraphy, and I was prolific. Nearly every day I pumped out a new poster-sized calligraphic rendering of Pink Floyd’s lyrics and I was extremely proud of the gold-leafed illuminated letters I had done on Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven.
“Wow! Will I become a famous calligrapher?” I asked eagerly. He laughed so hard I was able to see that he did indeed have a few teeth back in the grotto of his mouth and he said no, that’s not really what I mean sweetheart, you’re quite a literal girl aren’t you?
With much lisping and smacking, he mumbled on for nearly an hour about my future, which was surprisingly uninteresting to me—at fourteen hearing about your future seems as irrelevant as listening to someone’s dream. I simply could not reconcile what he was saying with my own life. In fact, as soon as he told me I would not be a famous calligrapher he lost me.
Afterward, I met my sister and parents at the ice cream parlor and listened to them excitedly tell each other their predictions, which was even more boring than hearing my own. I was much more interested in the Rocky Road milkshake I was drinking than anyone’s future. So I tuned out and started to calligraphy the words to Comfortably Numb on my napkin, itching to get home to see if my dusty violin had a secret message for me.
Only later, after the dog hair had been long washed from my clothes and the stale smell of the house had faded from memory, I realized I was hooked. Still am. But let's keep it on the down-low, okay?
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
But those are like aspirin compared to the heroin of all '70s commercials: The Crying Indian. I remember this commercial more clearly than any other minute of TV I’d watched as a child. Seeing it again some 30 years later made my brain feel like when you pull the coffee pot out too soon and the hot liquid starts pouring out onto the burner, sputtering and bubbling. It was as if long-severed neural pathways were reconnecting or something. If you are 38-44, watch with caution: Like a solar eclipse, this kind of powerful nostalgia can damage your retinas.
I think it’s so disturbing because I can clearly remember when it was okay to throw your garbage out your car window, or leave trash on a park bench, or drive with a can of Oly wedged between your legs (with all the drinking and driving that went on, you’d think cup holders would have been invented way earlier).
In sum: the ‘70s sucked on almost every level.
Post script: my husband just dug up a hilarious commercial about "Big Jim" and "Big Josh" that had to be made by out-of-work Tom of Finland designers.
Monday, December 15, 2008
There are a lot of robots around here but not one does anything useful; there’s no laundry robot, no window-washing robot, no cleaning the icky white bolt covers at the base of the toilet robot. Instead, we have the robot that walks like a spider and shoots things, the robot that does a creepy dance, and the robot with tank-like wheels and a wireless video cam that the kids drive into my office to spy on me. I could go on. And I’m not just saying that.
So the newest addition to our Robot family was quite a surprise - it actually does something sort of useful. Okay, maybe useful is a stretch, but at least it’s amusing. Behold the Raedeke Rhythmic Automaton. If this short video does not make you chuckle then check your wires because you, my friend, are a robot.
8 Bit Ghost Blog. Nice work, Scott. Maybe the next one could make Almond Roca or something?
I do love how quiet the snow makes everything; it's like living in a recording studio where nothing bounces off the walls. Except the children, of course! Nothing gets kids excited like fresh snow.
Speaking of snow and riled up kids, does anyone else make snowcones with snow and maple syrup? It was something I did as a child but my husband thinks it's mildly insane.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
We see the tai chi symbol - the icon of yin and yang - everywhere now, but often the wrong image is used. Can you guess which of these is the correct expression of the tai chi?
My favorite marketing misuse was in an ad for Salem Menthol ciagrettes; the designer had used the most negative of all four of these (counterclockwise yin over yang), essentially equating cigarettes with death. Take a drag of that!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Sadly, it’s true. I often mention my Hank, but rarely mention Juliet. I think it’s because Hank is a bit peculiar, a tad quirky, so it’s easy to talk about him without feeling like I’m bragging. Talking about Hank is the equivalent of being self-deprecating. But Juliet, the child who practically popped out of the womb speaking in full sentences and could build robots before many of her classmates could read, is extraordinary. It’s impossible to believe Scott and I grew her from scratch. So it’s difficult to say anything about her without feeling like one of those Moms who’s always dropping “gifted” within two words of her child’s name. (I hate the term “gifted” as applied to children; I find it pretentions and offensive. If one child is gifted it means another is without gifts and that’s just plain wrong.) See how hard this is for me? I can’t even stay on track here. It’s time for a Juliet post. A Juliet Rocks post.
Last night she had her first concert as part of the Mokumbe Marimba Club and it was amazing. The marimba is one of those instruments that sounds great even when played badly, but when played in concert with ten other marimbas—the massive bass tone and several tenor and soprano marimbas—it’s music that you feel it in every cell of your body. I was stunned to see her working the keys with her mallets, looking as though she’s played marimba all of her short life. It’s a beautiful thing to see children play music together (even if they were forced to wear “crazy hats” by her groovy marimba teacher, who can be seen in the left corner of the photo).
So now, in addition to being a super smarty pants with an amazing sense of humor, Juliet can add marimba tenor extraordinaire to her 8-year old resume! Great job, Juliet!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
This was in the late ’80s, before Victoria’s Secret instituted the No Couples in the Dressing Room rule, so a typical day at work might begin with me hearing people getting it on in a dressing room. I always tried to escalate these situations to the manager, I mean doesn’t this seem like a management issue?
“Jenny, there are people doing it in dressing room three.”
“Did you tell them to get out?”
“Yeah, they got quiet and pretended to not be in there.”
“Here, take the master key and break it up.”
So off I’d go, with my degree in Journalism and the manager’s important-keys-on-a-wristband, to bust some girl in a teddy and her horndog boyfriend.
“I know you’re in there and I’m coming in if you don’t come out right now,” I’d yell through the door, trying not to sound too much like the wolf in The Three Little Pigs.
Almost always they were indignant, “Well if you’re going to get snippy I won’t buy this bustier.”
I wished they could see me roll my eyes.
After they would leave, I’d spray some Lilly of the Valley perfume (the only tolerable scent in the cloying VS collection) in the room and pick up the soiled garment with two hangers, chopstick style, to deposit it in the “NO SALE” box in the back room.
I’d wonder about my destiny—was I always just going to pick up after other people's deviant adventures? In college I supplemented my gin allowance by working in a tanning salon, which, in rainy Eugene, Oregon saw a lot of action. The job was brainless: all I had to do was schedule tanning sessions and disinfect the beds after every use. College boys are a randy bunch and apparently they cannot lie still in their underwear for 30 minutes without getting frisky with themselves. They were conscientious about cleaning the bottom of the bed but they never remembered the top of the clamshell that came down over them. So basically I had been in the soft-core sex industry for years.
I was working at Victoria’s Secret because I could not find a real job. After months of discouraging interviews with advertising agencies, I honestly considered moving up in the ranks of retail; I was a great sales girl and often won the monthly sales contests. Any meager bonus would have been appreciated, but they rewarded us with lingerie instead of cash—just what someone making minimum wage needs. So each morning I scrounged up bus fare from the bottom of my roommates’ closets in an eighty-dollar garter belt and real silk stockings.
My winning sales tactic was simple: target men and use guilt as a sales tool. I’d approach a short man looking at sleazy lingerie and say, “Hi there. Can I help you find anything?”
“Oh, hi, I’m looking for a present for my wife. It’s our anniversary. I really like this," he’d say, holding up a porno-style red and black lace teddy. "What do you think?”
“Well…if she were buying it to surprise you, this thong-back teddy would be perfect. But this is for her, right? The ultimate gift for any woman is the cashmere robe. I promise you she will never, ever forget this present.”
“A robe? Really? Doesn’t seem very... Uh, wouldn’t she want me to get her something sexy?”
“Ask any woman in here, this is the sexiest thing they could ever receive. Cashmere is the ultimate. Shall I gift wrap it for you?”
“I guess. Uh, okay. Sure.”
I would run off quickly to wrap it and ring it up because the kind of man who shops at Victoria’s Secret may shrivel inside when he finds out that cashmere robe costs $275, but he would never, ever say he couldn’t afford it.
After a long day of peddling lingerie, I’d ride the bus home to our bleak apartment that always smelled like curry and moldy carpet, eat a tortilla or mac and cheese or something equally cheap, and envy my roommates for their real-ish jobs.
I’d go to Lynne for solace and comfort. Lynne was a weekend guest who turned into a roommate; she slept on the couch and used the hall linen closet as her dresser. She was stunningly beautiful in a big-eyed-Teutonic-blond kind of way and was as vapid as you would expect for someone so pretty, but she had a heart of gold. Lynne went out partying nearly every night and would pass out on the couch in her dress, nylons, and pumps. Before she would black out she’d say profoundly nice things to me, which I shamelessly sought out before I tucked her into the couch.
“Goodnight Lynne, can I help you out of your hose and shoes? Wouldn’t you be more comfortable in your pajamas? Do you have pajamas?” I’d ask, fruitlessly before she’d nod off with her mouth wide open, her breath smelling of Mudlsides or B-52s or Pina Coladas.
Then I’d go back to my bare room with a red pen and the want ads and curl up on my futon in the expensive silk pajamas I’d won...
Sunday, December 7, 2008
God knows the Fed is not going to bail out the publishing industry, so there’s a movement afoot to save the world by buying books as gifts this holiday season. Editorial Ass has an incredibly useful post up today listing books for a number of different types of people you may have in your life. Check it out, there is something for everyone!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Glycolaldehyde helps to build RNA, which is basically the central molecule involved in the origin of life on Earth. It was discovered at the center of the galaxy awhile ago, but now they’ve also found it on the star-forming part of the galaxy where there are potentially habitable planets. Sweet food for thought, no?
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Once again, thanks to AC, finder of all cool blog toys, for this link to the Blog Readability Test. Anyone out there got a Genius Level blog like Literary Agent Janet Reid? Tip: Scrub your blog of middle-schoolish phrases like "what happened to darryl hannah's face" before checking it or you'll be back with me in 6th grade making fake fingernails by pouring Elmers in that groove in the center of your ruler. (Yields ten 1.2" press-ons by lunchtime!)
For the love of god, I hope the answer is NO.
I just looked at the phrases people used to get to my site. Frightening. There’s a whole category that just includes the words “tight pants” from which a sub-category of “camel toe” quickly emerges.
Would the FBI be able to sketch a psychological profile of me based on the following keywords that led to my blog?
what happened to darryl hannah's face
c'est la vie c'est la guerre
1984 parachute pants
bat wings grafted onto mice
bottomless pool mexico
blog funeral dirge
funny physical cautions
freaks of nature
worst essay in the world
Searches JUST about tight pants:
tight pants pain
high school tight pants
stalking secretary tight pants
tight work out pants camel toe
tight trousers and pants cause pain
tight ski pants camel toe
tight pants pain risk
tight pants camel toe
(Anyone else think I should alert the authorities in Joensuu, Finland, where the search “stalking secretary tight pants” originated?)
If we can take anything away from this it's that any post involving "tight pants" and/or "camel toe" is a traffic driver....
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
1) Get back in pajamas
2) Turn on electric blanket
3) Turn off phone
4) Position large cup of Starbucks on bedside table
5) Open up "Astrid" manuscript and read cover to cover
6) Generally wallow until 1:00 conference call about freelance project
Ah, looks like a good day stretching out before me. After working so intensely on P.o.D. for the last few months, I'm really excited to dig in to Astrid. I wrote this manuscript last year, channeling nervous energy while I was waiting for an offer on P.o.D. and I really, really like it. Agent Laura had some major issues but I think I know how to fix it now, having had some distance from it. It's always exciting to go back and read something for the first time after a long while away. In this case it's been six months since I've cracked the Astrid manuscript.
What's that? Oh, it's my electric blanket calling—gotta go!
Monday, December 1, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Tomorrow is my favorite day in Ashland: The Festival of Lights. After sundown there’s a light parade and then everything goes quiet and dark. The whole town starts a countdown and when our collective voice gets to “one” the switch is flipped and downtown is ablaze in fairy lights. It’s magical. Right after that, my writing partner Marcia and I are going to zip up to the cabin for a weekend writing intensive so I can deliver my manuscript to my editor on Monday. All in all, a good four days ahead!
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Graeme is one of the funniest people to ever walk the planet, and that’s all you need to win my heart. So my apple-cheeked friend, I bestow upon your blog the “I Love You This Much” award that came to me from Katie and SarahFrances. Enjoy!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Today is the Thanksgiving Feast at elementary school, the crown jewel of Institutional Meals! As the other moms gripe about the consistency of the gravy or the lack of Tofurkey, I’ll be in line with my partitioned tray winking at the Lunch Lady to get a wee bit more stuffing.
It’s not that I don’t have a sophisticated palate; I just have a broad palate. I’m very inclusive when it comes to food—I like it all, from liverwurst to foie gras. So yeah, I’m not above admitting to liking po’ white trash fare. And this will come in handy, you know, if there’s any prison time in my future… Happy Institutional Feast Day!
Does it seem like a lovefest around here sometimes? Well, it is. I seriously love the amazing children’s book writers I meet at conferences and workshops. I dare you to go to a general writer’s conference and then go to a children’s book writers conference and see the difference. Night and day! It’s like everyone in this genre was hand-picked as someone I would enjoy. I’m a cynic at heart, so I was surprised to find a genuine feeling of encouragement and support among writers instead of the underlying feeling of envy and competition that emanates from writers of other genres.
Two people I met at the SCBWI conference and instantly loved were Katie and Sarah Frances of the blog Plot This. They have just awarded me the I Love You This Much award, which really made my day. As if the Institutional Feast were not enough! Thanks so much Katie and SF... Let the lovefest continue!
Monday, November 24, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
While others turned to the fashion or relationship sections of Cosmo and Seventeen, I always went straight for the horoscope and “Are you a __or an__?” quiz. I’m an eternal qizzer, looking for that one test that will, at last, explain who I am. Myers-Briggs is as close as it gets.
Okay, here’s the weird part: My blog is the OPPOSITE of my self. Ready for this? My blog is an ESFP - The Performer! My husband and oldest friends Julie and Davis will no doubt do a spit-take while reading this; I am so terrified of performing that’s it’s difficult for me to even watch theater productions. I make Julie read my writing at our critique group because even just reading aloud feels like performing. Seriously, I had to pop beta blockers at the Big Sur Writers Conference just to be able to read my stuff. (PS – They work great!)
In real life I’m a devoted, dedicated, card-carrying INTP: “Analytical individuals who don't mind spending long periods of time on their own, working through problems and forming solutions. They are very curious about systems and how things work. INTPs tend to be less at ease in social situations and the "caring professions." They also tend to be impatient with the bureaucracy, rigid hierarchies, and politics prevalent in many professions. INTPs can demonstrate remarkable skill in explaining complex ideas to others in simple terms, especially in writing. Their extroverted intuition often gives them a quick wit, especially with language, and they can defuse the tension in gatherings by comical observations and references.”
Anyone who knows me well will agree most heartily with this morsel: INTP’s are “less at ease in social situations and the ‘caring professions’.” (Recently I mentioned to an old friend that if fiction writing doesn’t work out I might think about becoming a nurse; she burst out laughing and said, “You would be the worst nurse ever! You loathe the ‘public’ and you’re not all that nurturing.” Ouch. Only a friend could through the crap like that. Though I still think I’d be a good nurse if I had a specialty position that allowed me access to gross things but not much human interaction, like Nurse of Boil Lancing Only or some such…)
Another cool thing about typelyzer.com is that it shows you a picture of what part of your brain you’re using when you are blogging. Interesting to see that what I write about my life uses the exact opposite part of my brain that I use when I actually LIVE my life, which probably makes me a pathological liar.
Anyone else an INTP in real life and an ESFP In blog life?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tarsius pumilus fulfills all my dream qualities:
I'm planning on starting an All Pygmy Tarsier All The Time website, which will surely eclipse the reigning Cute Overload in the absurd fluffy miniature big-eyed cuteness website department.
Who's with me, people? Anyone? Let me allow the tarsiers to speak for themselves:
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Because of the alltogether too much kidness, I’ve been looking so forward to this week - four consecutive days to write! - that I forgot to propitiate the gods. And now I’ve been smote. Or is it smited? Smoted? How about all of the above.
A disgusting virus has hit the Raedeke children. I’m not even going to say the common name because
1) I love any excuse to use medical terminology and
2) the common name is very close to that of a barnyard disease and you will think I am raising cloven-hoofed (or is it hooved? I’m clearly unable to work out the complexities of the English language today.) children.
We’ve been cursed with Coxsackievirus A16.
The cruelest part of the smiting (smotation?) is this nugget: “There is no specific treatment for Coxsackievirus A16 except time. It takes 5-7 days to run its course.”
There goes the week.
Think of me as you writers write, free of constraints. I’ll be here in my plagued house pureeing food, steeping lots of tea, and working out a propitiation system so I never again forget to appease Seshat, goddess of writing, lady of the house of books.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Facebook was made for people like me who love/need to know what's going on in everyone's lives but are not that keen on actually communicating to get that info. In Facebook you make initial contact and then sit back and voyeuristically enjoy the ride, peeking in on people's lives whenever you feel the need (read: hourly). It's entirely justifiable, though because I find Facebook is flooding my subconscious with memories, which are key for a writer. Grade school, high school, college; my own spotty memories get fleshed out with every new friend request and accompanying one-inch photo that pops up on my screen.
Becasue of a recent Facebook friend request, this morning instead of waking up with the conundrum of bittersweet chocolate vis a vis peppermint ice cream, I woke up thinking about 1987-88, my senior year in college. I'd moved out of the Kappa house and into a rental, dubbed The Kasbah, with friends Pam and Wendy. It was an old house that had been remodeled and it had super-shiny hardwood floors that we thought were incredibly posh. We named it The Kasbah (the K made it krazy!) because of the Clash song—no one would ever come off campus and visit unless they thought a party might break out, so we gave the house a name that engendered the feeling that it could really Rock At Any Moment. Parties never did break out though, because while other girls in other houses were filling garbage cans full of Spodi Punch with 151-proof rum in halter tops and mini skirts, we sat around in our nightgowns—remember the long, nun-like Lanz brand that had what looked like a lace-trimmed bib?—and played How Much, a game that dominated our social lives that year.
How Much was a simple game; one person came up with a rude, crude, or simply unsanitary dare and then the lowest bidder would do the deed. For example, I’d ask How Much to lick the mop after I’ve cleaned the bathroom floor. Wendy would say ten bucks. Pam would say three bucks because she never really grasped the nuances of the game, like underbidding to maximizing her payout; if this were Wendy or me we would have bid nine dollars and ninety-nine cents. So then, I would mop the bathroom floor and she would lick the mop and collect three bucks.
Pam always won at the foul-bordering-on-deadly deeds (things like chewing on raw chicken skin for 25 seconds), Wendy always won at the public humiliation deeds, and I always won when it came to eating large amounts of things that grossed other people out but I secretly liked. Just between you and me, you wouldn’t even have to pay me to eat a whole jar of mayo, but apparently this was gross enough to be valued at around twelve bucks. Ten bucks just to eat a whole cube of cream cheese? Bring it on.
Wendy always slept late; although she was enrolled in the University, you would never know it. Pam and I actually got up, dressed, and made our way to campus everyday, if only for a cup of coffee. Wendy preferred to sleep in, enjoy coffee and breakfast in her robe, and then get down to cross-stitching. She was a Leisure Studies major—there really is such a thing—so she could get away with this most of the time. She wanted to be a stewardess so she could cross-stitch all over the world.
While we had scrapped together real furniture for the living spaces, we lived at ground level in the bedrooms. If you had walked into my room with, say, one of those cones that dogs have to wear after surgery to keep them from licking wounds, and you could only look side to side, you would think the room was empty. I had a mattress on the floor, a wooden box for a nightstand, and milk crates to hold clothes and books. Nothing in the room was taller than two feet. When I sat on my bed it seemed like a rich life. We had hardwood floors, didn’t we?
Thanks for the memories, Facebook. I heart you.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I think you know where I’m going with this. Yep, when I woke up this morning the only thing on my mind was whether bittersweet chocolate chunks would improve or ruin the miracle that is homemade peppermint ice cream.
Seriously, I can’t even remember where in the novel this fabulous scene was supposed to fit, let alone any detail of it other than that it was the ultimate key to any chance of success I had in this lifetime.
That WIP shall remain shelved for now.
Damn you, cold wood floors!
Monday, November 10, 2008
Though I did not go on to be a diver or an archaeologist, this moment in time has had a profound impact on where I am today, thirty years later. I find myself surrounded by things that bring me back to that moment: an extensive collection of books about the Maya, a deal with Flux for two adventure novels that involve the Maya, and an obsession with Mexico – last year I went three different times and visited six states and nearly ten ancient Mayan cities.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
So, I can add Professor of Classics to my list of things I’d like to be in a parallel universe. Others on the list are architect, Elle McPherson, food and travel writer a la M.F.K. Fisher, Tibetan Hermit, and archaeologist (specifically the archaeologist who discovered what the Antikythera device really did).
So, if you could snap your fingers and be ANYTHING else, what would you be?
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I'm so glad I won't break out in hives anymore from hearing our Commander in Chief, leader of one of the world's largest military forces, say nucular.
I have been a serious student of Traditional Chinese Feng Shui under Dr. Shan Tung Hsu for more than 12 years now and have learned so much about how symbols (information) manifest action (energy). Malcom Gladwell talks about it in Blink; in a state of rapid cognition your brain makes associations you have no control over in the first two seconds of seeing something. Whether you realize it or not or believe it or not, in those first seconds of seeing Michelle Obama last night your brain probably made the association between her dress and the name of that spider.
Whether it's Gladwell's description of "rapid cognition" or it's the feng shui principal of energy manifesting on the information level first, this was an extremely dangerous choice for her first impression as First Lady elect.
May the world keep them safe.
As a resident of a state that has joined the Vote-By-Mail revolution, the sight of people waiting for hours outside rainy polling stations seems antique. I received my ballot and all of the candidate/issue information a few weeks ago, which afforded me the luxury of spending a good amount of time filling it out at home in my pajamas with research/information at hand, then posting it the next day. Why isn't every state using this method? The upside:
* No waiting for hours in line
* No polling place intimidation
* No confusion about where to go to vote
* No need to make arrangements for childcare or time off
* No malfunctioning voting equipment
* No need to hire and train poll workers
* Increased election process integrity through signature verification
* Lower election administration costs
* Increased voter turnout
Seriously, people, this polling station stuff is absurd! For more information about increasing the number of Vote-By-Mail states, visit: http www.votebymailproject.org.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
The police block off Main Street and anyone and everyone is encouraged to walk in the parade through downtown. It’s a madhouse, but the kids love it. Juliet went as the Goddess Demeter and Hank went as the Grim Reaper (though the mask only lasted minutes as he found it really slowed down his candy consumption).
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
To: Christy Raedeke
Subject: Don't worry . .
I am going to get you notes, etc. on PoD. Brian and I have talked about it and he’s excited about the premise. I think he’ll be even more excited once he gets into the text.
I read it and think, what the hell is PoD? I Google the acronym for an hour, in various configurations with words like "edit" and "manuscript" trying to get hip to the whole publishing slang. Can’t find much, so I assume his edits are so big that he’s binding them into a Print On Demand (PoD) book. Realizing I should go ahead and clarify rather than assume anything, I email back:
To: Editor AK
Subject: RE: Don't worry . . .
Print on demand? Payable on death? I’m so sorry I don’t know what PoD means.
To which he replies:
To: Christy Raedeke
Subject: Don't worry . .
PoD = “Prophecy of Days.” You’re officially working with a publishing house. All books get acronyms.
Oh, that. Yes, of course. My book’s title.
It honestly never occurred to me. Doh!
Friday, October 24, 2008
If she had shown up for every appointment she'd scheduled this would have been her fifth visit but she had overslept for the previous four showings. Apparently, in addition to being a nudist, she is an insomniac. When she actually falls asleep no one wants to wake her up, not even for appointments.
I don’t know about you, but when a celebrity comes to look at my house I clean. Deeply. Freakishly. I even clean items that are in the house but not really part of the house, like my shoes. And with every missed appointment my cleaning became more manic. This particular morning, for this particular showing, I was particularly compulsive. I had sent my husband out to drive the kids around the block indefinitely because I needed to be alone with my madness. I was a dervish, sweaty with focus and fear. At one point, I found myself on the carpet with needlepoint scissors, trimming a couple of fibers that seemed just a touch long.
Then, at last, came a moment of clarity: Daryl Hannah did not care about cleanliness. This was a woman who had a house in Colorado (surrounded by thousands of acres, for obvious reasons) that featured a bathroom covered in moss. She hired a local moss mister to keep her moss moist when she was not staying there. Anyone who enjoys living with sphagnum, I reasoned, would not mind if a couple carpet fibers were a touch long. This was a sleepless, moss-lovin’ nudist who would probably groove more on the vibe of the house than on the caustic smell of X-14 that I so loved.
I looked up from the carpet to the wall of black and white photos. There were about 30 of them in various sizes. Old photos, new photos, all special for one reason or another. I got up and walked over to my favorite, a five-by-six-inch photo of my Grandfather, Steve. He is standing alone at midday in the middle of a dirt road that cuts through rolling hills covered with brown grass. He is wearing a dark suit and tie and an overcoat and a hat. It is the kind of photo that could suggest a million possibilities. I happen to know, however, what he was doing. He and his older brother Fritz were driving a milk truck from Wisconsin to Nevada that contained both moonshine and a certain character named Baby Face Nelson. My Grandfather was an unwitting accomplice, he later said, anything untoward was always Fritz’s doing. I believed him because he had the biggest heart of anyone I ever knew.
This is where it gets weird, so bear with me. In an act of desperation I looked at this photo and thought of moss and peace and asked my dead grandfather to help me fill this house with love. And then, perhaps because I knew the provenance of the picture, I pulled a move that felt very Godfather, I leaned over and kissed the photograph.
And that was it. I put the scissors back in the sewing box, wound the vacuum cleaner cord in a figure eight between the two hooks and stopped cleaning. I walked from room to room trying to fill each one with love. I conjured family and friends who had been in these rooms, I invoked joy and peace. And then I went back downstairs and waited for Scott to pick me up so we could be out of the house when Daryl finally showed up. The sound of our car pulling up the driveway triggered the mania that had driven my cleaning, and I reflexively ran upstairs to do one last check.
As I reached the landing, I looked at the picture wall and saw that the photo of my grandfather was askew. I must have bumped it when I kissed it, I thought, so I walked over to re-hang it. The moment I lifted it off the nail an enormous bat flew out from behind the frame, right toward my face, and then fell to the floor.
My response was too ridiculous to recount. Let me just tell you that I’m easy to startle and have, in fact, been diagnosed with a condition called “Exaggerated Startle Reflex,” which is mostly found in people who have seen combat. No doctor has ever been able to find the genesis of mine, but that fact is not important right now. What’s important is that I have this condition and a bat came out from behind a photo that I had recently put my lips to. I’ll let you imagine the rest.
After I calmed myself down, I tried to get a grasp on the situation. The bat was flopping around on the ground, claws stuck in the very carpet fibers I was clipping earlier, making a ghastly electronic sound like some kind of demonic toy that was low on batteries. I grabbed a towel off the stack in the guest bathroom—one of the towels that I had refolded several times in anticipation of Daryl’s appraisal—and threw it over the struggling creature. Let it be known that I carry my own luggage and mow the lawn, but when it comes to bat removal, I revert directly to nineteenth century rules: this is man’s work.
By the time Scott got to the bat it was so freaked out that it was quaking and gasping for breath like an emphysemic; it had none of the fiendish Luciferian qualities that it presented to me. It looked like a quivering rat grafted onto impressive fourteen-inch wings. Scott bundled it in the towel, walked it outside, and shook it gently into our big photinia hedge. We heard some scurrying, and that was it.
Neither of us could figure out how it had gotten in, we had never had so much as a mouse in the house. A cricket’s appearance in the kitchen was talked about by our daughter for years, that’s how devoid of wildlife our house was. More impressive than its mysterious entry was the way it folded itself up enough to fit behind a five-by-six frame and why it chose that photo to fold up behind, the same photo I chose to pay homage to. There were so many larger frames inches away. Why a small one? Why that one?
This event sparked my own bout with insomnia. I would lay awake nights trying to reason it out. Could it really be as simple as the bat and I each making a random choice that day—a choice not ordinary to either of our lives—and colliding? Or could it be as complicated as Bell’s Theorem? Was this some kind of quantum entanglement, what Einstein called spooky action at a distance, whereby the bat was my photon twin and wherever in the universe I moved the bat moved too? In the end, the whole scene was bizarre, but perhaps not as bizarre as Daryl Hannah, the insomniac, oversleeping for her fifth appointment.
Someone else bought the house.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Over the past few weeks I’ve sensed this mounting irritability, a deep-rooted feeling of being unsettled. There’s angst, a bit of woe, and a good amount of fear. It’s getting worse as we get closer.
Do you feel it?
McCain’s latest trick, the “Joe the Plumber Tour” that he’s kicked off in
Where is the Joe the Teacher tour?
Never has it been more important to think. Never has it been more important to vote.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I went for a walk this morning and while my hair was being whipped into a bird's nest, some good ideas came swirling in. Wind does that to me - somehow warm gusts always open up new possibilities and blow in new perspective on old issues. Got to write them down before they blow away again...
Monday, October 20, 2008
I know several people (Davis, Sarah Frances, Miles, Eve) who are both writers and artists and I wonder what their take is on this. Does writing mostly tap in to the intuitive side of the brain (as art does) or the linear side of the brain (as science does)? Or both simultaneously?
My sister and I were raised by two people who were not in the arts, but very early she emerged as an artist and I, a writer. If asked to draw or paint, I literally feel like I've stroked out and am unable to tell my hand what to do; I just don't know how to translate what I see into something on paper unless I'm using words. My sister has the opposite problem.
It's fascinating, really. Thoughts?
Bonus question: Art brain and writer brain meet for a cage fight. Who wins?
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Proof that friendship can overcome anything...including powder blue dye-to-match shoes.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Davis and Peggy-Sorry to throw you under the bus.
Christine Marie Gersich
Ashland Senior High class of 1984
To get my "mall bangs" that poufy and my side rolls just right I used a round hairbrush the size of a kielbasa and a LOT of Aqua Net. I'd like to say I've made a radical departure from this look, but if you glance at my blog photo you'll see that in nearly 25 years I haven't made a whole lot of progress in hairstyle or makeup scheme. (Although a friend did finally pry the Lancome Electric Blue Eyeliner from my hands in 1989. But hey, I gave it a good run.)
As John Cougar Mellencamp said so profoundly: Hold on to 16 as long as you can/Changes comin round real soon make us women and men...
Friday, October 17, 2008
My least favorite word: rag.
What words do you adore and despise?
For a fun list of some you may not have heard of, see this BBC article. I didn't know that the smell of rain was called petrichor. Lovely, isn't it?