Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Got Spam, Part 1 - Your easy way to become well hung

Ruby Sue began her wild beagle baying just as soon as ShaSha slammed the trunk of her Jetta. She had to slam it hard because someone had broken into the trunk last year and the lock didn’t grip right unless she closed it like she meant business.

Struggling up the walkway under the weight of the frames she carried on her arm, ShaSha yelled towards her front door. “Calm down, you wild beast, it’s just me!”

After several re-sandings and re-stainings she’d given up on ever having a front door that was not gouged and grooved by Ruby Sue’s anxious claws. Sometimes being driven to reclaim was had been abandoned meant you lived in less than perfect conditions.

She balanced the frames against the porch wall as she turned her key in the lock. The door opened with a whoosh as fifteen pounds of wiggling mass launched at ShaSha’s feet. Ruby Sue’s tail whipped against her calves as her wet nose sniffed madly around ShaSha’s knees.

“I haven’t been with another dog, silly girl.”

The wagging and circling slowed down enough for ShaSha to pick up the frames and move them into the house. Ruby Sue stood in the doorway, expectantly looking back and forth from the pink leash hung on a peg inside the door and then to ShaSha’s face. With an indulgent smile, ShaSha bent over to remove her shoes. She’d happily gone trash diving wearing a pair of three inch patent leather pumps, but walking a fast moving beagle on a garbage-scented mission required more utilitarian foot gear.

She slipped her feet into the beat up Mary Jane’s, her arch adjusting with some protest to the thick vegetarian sole. She grabbed the leash off the hook and quickly wrangled it onto Ruby Sue’s collar. With a quick twist she moved the elastic from around her wrist to the back of her head, catching up the bright blue strands of her hair into a low ponytail in one smooth motion.

“Just a short one, girl, to get your wiggles out. I’ve got decorating to do!”

She glanced at her watch. Mac was coming for an early dinner before they headed out to a Dirt Bombs concert at The Duke. Not that he really noticed or cared about the d├ęcor of her humble bungalow, not with the designer-done penthouse he owned. For some odd reason he seemed to prefer coming over to her house and eating at the tiny bistro table. The blank wall that made up one end of her kitchen had been bothering her. She’d painted it a really lovely shade of lavender, which complemented the black and white tile floor and the painstakingly painted old cabinets. But nothing had ever seemed quite right to hang on the wall. And if it wasn’t next to free and exactly perfect, ShaSha didn’t want it.

She looked longingly at the frames leaned up against the couch as Ruby Sue practically sprinted out the front door. Later, she promised herself.


Ruby Sue plopped down on her dog bed, her tongue lolling out of her mouth and her breath coming in short heaves.

“Well, that was quite the death march!” ShaSha put the leash back on the peg and closed the front door. With a flick she turned the deadbolt and locked the door. The gentrification of the East Atlanta Village was well underway, but some shady characters looking for an easy score still roamed the streets sometimes. May Avenue had been pretty quiet for the past year, but living in the city she’d learned to never let her guard down completely.

She filled up Ruby Sue’s water dish and put it within easy distance of the still panting dog. With the beagle worn down to obedience she could go outside and get her tools without being nipped and cajoled into a game of fetch.

The shed had seen better days, but the periwinkle and peach paint job at least made the leaning structure cheerful. She’d re-shingled the roof last summer so even if the thing looked like it would blow down in a strong wind at least it was water-tight. She grabbed her four foot ladder, a hammer, the small torpedo level, a measuring tape and the glass jar of brackets and cleats.

Her progress through the backyard was awkward at best. The ladder swung against her legs and the hammer bounced in the back pocket of her jeans. She made it into the back door and carefully plopped her tools down on the bistro table. The hammer rung against the metal table top, but she was careful not to chip the paint. The sunny yellow hue had taken two tries to get right and she didn’t want to have to repaint it.

She lined the frames up against the wall and stood back to look at them. With a critical eye she imagined them lined up in a grouping on the wall. None of the frames held pictures, which was probably why they’d been heaped up on the curb outside a rather ramshackle old house in Grant Park. ShaSha was always on the lookout on trash day and for some reason today she’d gotten up early and decided to just drive around a little. These serendipitous findings often happened to her – almost like objects in need of a home called to her in her dreams.

The largest frame was long and skinny, almost as though it had once held a mirror or a landscape. The old veneer was worn away in a few places and the gold was dull, but the intricate pattern presented a nice counterpoint to the lavender walls and the geometric floor. She carefully removed the old wire and used the level to nail in a new bracket. Since the frames were going up empty and would likely stay that way she didn’t want visible wires. She eyed the wall for placement and then confirmed her placement by measuring. She drove the cleat in quickly and efficiently with two taps. The frame hung straight and true.

She repeated her careful steps with each of the remaining four frames until the grouping hung in a pleasing array on the formerly blank wall. ShaSha stepped back, pleased with her work. Maybe Mac would notice the change, maybe he wouldn’t. You just never knew with men. But she loved how everything hung together.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Got Spam?

I've been under a massive onslaught of spam lately. I'm sure everyone has - my inundation is not because I'm special or because I'm a likely buyer of snake oil. But, seriously - I have a female name - and yet the majority of spam I get is for male enhancement products. How do I know this?

Because I have partials and queries out with agents and editors. Stay with me I know it seems like a segue. I check my junk mail folder hourly because you just never know if a reply from that uber-important key to my future health and happiness has gotten marked as spam.

No, no snake oil here. I'm not gullible at ALL.

So, because I need to find amusement in even the most mundane of human experiences, I've taken the seven best subject lines from my spam and I'm going to spend this week writing about them. Only, what I plan to do is riff on the subject line - I'm not planning on writing about male enhancement as a viable or even needed medical advance, in case you were worried. Sheesh.

So, hang on to your hats. It might get bumpy. EEEEWWWWWW!!! Totally unintentional pun alert.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I'd Rather Be Bad Than Good

I'm grooving along paying bills while listening to The Jody Grind and this song comes on. Isn't that the root of all choices? Would you rather be bad? The song's really about not seeing a certain guy anymore because with him she'd rather be bad. It's the pull of the brassy.

If you were to do a little search of my google history you'd discover that at least once per day I search for, are you ready?

Amy Winehouse news.

Yes, I keep up with her exploits daily. I have both Back to Black and the indi release that wasn't available in the US until November, Frank. I've listened to both of them enough times to have memorized every word, every nuance, every bit of angst and beauty. People who know me are finding my Winehouse Obsession, well, odd.

You see, for the most part, all my choices in life have been of the "I'd rather be good" variety. Don't get me wrong - I have my vices and tattoos and explosive love affairs like any other girl. But for the balance of life I've made the good choices. When I was younger I had a really robust creative period fueled almost entirely by bourbon. Did I write really great stuff then? No. But I did learn I had something to say. Once I wasn't quite so soaked I learned how to control and shape my words. What amazes me about Amy Winehouse is that she has range, control and a searing honestly. Soaked. Soaked and pickled and on the absolute edge. She's made the choice of being bad and made it all the f'ing way. I don't think she has many moments of being good. She celebrated her marriage by carving her husband's initials into her belly with a shard of broken mirror. That's so bad it's nearly unbelievable.

We all know Good has rewards. Even when we have these moments of bad, we still strive for good because we know it's gonna pay off! Bad might be fun and it has it's attractions for artists - that razor edge is where most new ideas come from. Being raw and creating something new doesn't happen on the top floor - it's a dark, basement activity. Some lucky artists can go to that place mentally - they don't drag their body down, shooting up between their toes or carving themselves up, they learn to do it all in a place they can come back from. I don't think Amy's coming back. And if she does, she'll be Marianne Faithful - utterly ruined, yet resolute.

I was watching Project Runway this week (this isn't as much of a segue as it appears). One of the looks sent down the runway was worn by this lanky model with black hair done up in a beehive with a side pony tail. She looked hot. And obviously Winehouse inspired, without the missing teeth, bloody ballet flats and white powdered nose, of course. There was Michael Kors gushing like a GIRL, goofy smile and lit-up eyes, about how much he loved Amy Winehouse and how great the look was.

Watching a middle-aged, iconic, man gush over Amy Winehouse made me realize something.
At the end of the day, I think we love to watch people who actually would rather be bad than good. Especially when they make things happen. It's just too bad the creative forces being bad calls into the world eventually decimate the artist who tries to wield them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Got Milk?

A Warning: If you are squeamish about mother-type things (most especially that mother of all mother things - the breast) then just stop reading right now.

Okay then. Breastfeeding has been on my mind lately. No plans to take it up again, of course, but I've had one of those odd full-circle moments that sometimes happen in life. My first baby and I had a really tumultuous nursing experience. Her mouth was itty bitty and my breasts were incompetent. We made it eight weeks. The other mom's in my little post-partum yoga group would gasp and avert their heads when they saw my breasts - they were that bad. After several bouts of really severe mastitis (if you don't know, that's this lovely thing when your tits feel like masts) my midwife (MY MIDWIFE!) said, "time to quit, darling. Your health is declining and the baby is losing weight."

So, I became intimately familiar with cabbage leaves. Later that year I was at one of those faculty mixer-type things that grad students who teach sometimes get invited to and the wife of one of my favorite professors was there. We began talking about mother-type things because my friend was about to rush off to nurse her baby. The prof's wife got this look on her face that, for some reason, stuck in my head. It was a look both proud and defiant, with just a glint of malice. She then said, "My youngest is five and I still have milk."

Huh? She then went on to declare that she didn't actually nurse the child anymore, but the milk just never completely left. My brain tucked that little moment away.

Flash forward a few years. I have my second baby and triumph above all nursing issues. I nurse him for nearly two years and even after I cut him off he keeps asking for another three years. Poor thing. The reason I cut him off to begin with was because he was the most acrobatic nurser of all time and I just could not see allowing my nipples to continue to stretch like Cirque props.

I'm haven't been sad to give up nursing. Until recently. You see, there's this baby boom in my neighborhood and our discussion boards are full of all the young mother's giving each other nursing advice and lamenting the stares and shock of strangers.

And now I understand the professor's wife. Saying to women in the full flush of their childbearing years that I HAVE MILK is a certain claim on your own youth. Milk is bounty, it's beneficience, it's beauty, it's the elixir of life (literally!). When you have milk, you are a woman with every piece of your physical passage of life intact.

When it's gone for good, a piece of your youth goes with it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Writing The End

At 8:08 last night I wrote those two magic words that every aspiring writer (and, really, probably EVERY writer) loves above all other words.

The End

Wild Iris has now run it's course, fulfilled it's arc, circled itself, Freytaged, reached denouement, whatever other term you can come up with for (repeat after me)

The End

I don't feel the sense of deflation I did when I finished Silver Lining, mostly because I already have the next book plotted out and I can't wait to start it. That's a nice feeling. But not nearly as nice as (repeat after me)

The End

Of course, I'm going to bask in the afterglow all day today before I have to face the two least fun words in writing

Edit and Polish

But, that's tomorrow. And in those immortal words of Scarlet O'Hara,

Tomorrow is another day.

Which were, of course, the words written right before (repeat after me)

The End

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Character of Landscape

I left my house early this morning to get to my chapter board meeting. Where I live is just east of downtown, which means I have to take one freeway and then go through an interchange to get to the mother of all messes - the Downtown Connector. Someone in an office somewhere in Atlanta decided it would be a GREAT idea to take two major north/south interstates and combine them as they went through downtown. Brilliant.

Traffic on the connector can range from terrible to horrendous at any given hour of the day. It's my only route north, however, so a girl has to do what a girl has to do. I have a trusty minivan and I know how to merge.

This morning, however, the connector was nearly empty. You see - the one thing guaranteed to empty the freeway in Atlanta is the threat of snow. Even though only a light mist drifted about the city everyone else must have been at home by the window (wringing their hands, I'm sure). Since I wasn't gritting my teeth and using my spare hand to flip off other rude drivers, I had the ability to enjoy the downtown landscape.

I love the city. The buildings stand in their rows like patrons at the bank on the day social security checks are deposited. Varied, resolute, stout, clean, dirty, ornate, prim., expansive. The mist obscures the tops on days with bad weather - making the tallest buildings appear to just disapear into the ether. The jumble and hodge podge is my kind of landscape. I prefer the mess and brilliance of man to the uniformity of nature. Each window on each building is a story waiting.

I suppose I'm not just a people-watcher. I'm a building observer. For me, landscape is perhaps the greatest and most important character study.