01 April, 2013

So I Thought the Onion Was Hiring...

Four days ago, my beloved, ever-trustworthy, accomplished-writer sister, Keel, shared with me that the Onion was hiring freelance contributors for their hilarious and oft-emailed around the office online newspaper. I nearly peed my pants with excitement. I spent Saturday churning out witty and biting headlines and hilarious faux-journalism prose to accompany them. I drafted and finished a story for submission and felt entirely too proud of myself for just a couple hours work. I nearly peed my pants a second time with the anticipation of sending it in and waiting to hear back.

But, as cruel twists of fate would have it, it turns out the Onion is not hiring. Early April Fool's joke? Mis-informed masses wanting to be a part of the snarky world of fake news? This time, I nearly peed my pants with sadness.

But instead of doing that, I decided that I would share my article with you. WARNING NOTE for moms and those with a light tolerance for vulgarity: it has a bad swear word in it. The swear word that starts with an F. You have been forewarned.

Below, for your enjoyment, is my article. One day, Onion. One day...

Area 2-Year Old Getting Real Fucking Annoying with the Whole Counting Thing
Cambridge, MA

Local 2-year old Kyle Dunbar spent the last few months of his third year on planet Earth mastering the age-old art of counting. Now when encountering objects, Kyle likes to try to count them all.
“He’s so smart!” Reported Kyle’s mother, Ashley. “He still gets kind of stuck after 10, but we all know he knows it. And it’s just so cute when he tries to say “eleventeen!”
This past Sunday Kyle’s parents, Ashley and Mike, decided to celebrate the milestone by gathering family and friends over to their split-level for some light snacks.
“We’re so proud!” Reported Mike, who mentioned that he often likes to buy things in multiples just so he can show Kyle off.
“We always knew he was smart,” chimed Ashley. “And now he’s just getting so verbal and showing everyone what he’s learning every day!”
But not everyone was basking in the glow of Kyle’s recent accomplishments.
“He counts everything. Everything.” Groaned Jamie Parker, Kyle’s 13 year old cousin who is subjected to Kyle’s incessant counting on a weekly basis.
Next door neighbors Chuck and Brianne Martinez were also feeling the ill effects of Kyle’s relentless tallying.
“It’s getting out of hand.” Said Brianne, stating that sometimes she is woken up at 8am on a goddamn Saturday morning because Kyle is in the backyard, counting all the caterpillars and birds and particles of dirt that he sees. “It’s like, we get it. Just move on already, you know?”
Even Kyle’s grandparents are a little over the whole “counting” thing.
“Oh sure, it was adorable when it first started.” Commented Grammy Doris, who was in town visiting from her condo in Maryland. “But my son Mikey counted so much earlier than Kyle. Definitely was counting to 20 by at least one year’s old.” Later on, after a few glasses of the Maryland shiraz had been downed, Grammy Doris could be heard mumbling something about “Ashley’s side of the family.” However, when pressed for further comment, Grammy Doris denied saying anything at all.
Jealous older sister Jackie could be heard in the background saying that she’s been able to count for so long she can’t even remember when she learned. “I’ve been doing it for like 10 years,” reported the 7-year old Jackie, glaring resentfully at her bowl of grapes. Kyle, too, got in on the grape action, though once he started counting them Jackie could take no more and ran from the kitchen, screaming.
“We’re thinking of enrolling him in a Montessori school.” Confided proud mom Ashley. “You can’t keep minds like his caged by public education. He’s clearly got a gift! It just wouldn’t be fair to him. ”
But for now, the l’il abacus is content to stick to counting his bathtime toys, the letters on daddy’s teeshirts, and his collection of dinosaur figurines.

05 February, 2013

Resolution #2: Coffee Shops & Writers

There she is, sitting down at the small table next to the giant plate glass window. You’ve seen her before, or someone very much like her. Laptop taking up most of the available table space, a comically large battery pack snaked behind a corner couch and then a side table, plugged firmly into the wall before she is able to commit her genius to the written word. She types furiously at her keyboard, her left hand deftly reaching all the appropriate keys, her right pointer finger doing all the work because she went to public school and no one taught her to type correctly. But even with this handicap, she can operate at 85 words per minute, and thus, she will not mess with her system. Some days, when this finger releases a dull ache in the middle of the night, she wonders if one day it will simply fall off, a phalangic mutiny in defiance of the stress and strain she has forced onto it over the years of late-night reports, poorly written fan fiction, and witty inter-office emails. Alas, that is a story for a different time. This is the story about spending the afternoon writing in Starbucks.

For me, typing on a computer takes away all the romance surrounding the craft of writing. I mean, it’s just so unceremonious. When Hemingway wrote, he stood at a bookcase, pressing down the thick keys of his typewriter and reverting back to his reading board every now and again for story inspiration. Now try to imagine him writing today, whipping out a MacBook Air and getting distracted every 15 minutes by Buzzfeed's "42 People You Won't Believe Actually Exist" and "The 30 Most Important Cats of 2012".  Had those been around, who knows what kind of work he would have published, if he would have been able to publish at all. Many great writers have written human-altering prose, scratching notes on thin yellowy paper and sipping bourbon or scotch or some moonshine (I like to imagine that the common liquors bored them), trying to satiate that unknowable compulsion to conjure, craft, and create.

But I don’t have a secluded house off the lake to visit and contemplate the world at large and the people that inhabit it, nor I even have a remote idea about how one goes about acquiring (or making) moonshine. I do, however, live within a one mile radius of 9 distinct Starbucks. So I did the next best thing, and dedicated the second resolution from my 2013 list of 52 resolutions to spending an afternoon in Starbucks "writing my novel."

The novel itself is something I started to write in college as part of a class I took called "Introduction to Writing Your Novel." (We were concerned about creativity inside the class, less so in the class title.) The class was filled with 13 idealistic writers huddled around a conference table, sipping tea and talking about important things like narrative arc, protagonist trustworthiness, and a whole mess of concepts that I had never, ever entertained before.

It was in this classroom that I learned that my writing, and thusly my soon-to-be novel, sucked. But here’s why it sucked. The novel was intended to be a satirical look at the world of country clubs and those unfortunate teenagers employed there, their sardonic views on life, their tangled love triangles, the quiet moments of inner strength that surprised them when they were walking through peewater for not the first, but the second time that day as a very excited young person learned the front crawl. The story centers on a young lifeguard who was thrust into a job that she may or may not have been qualified for, the friends she makes, and the hilarity that ensues. You'll never guess who this protagonist was modeled after. (Hint: she now writes blog posts about her resolutions in 2013.)

So I can say with as much unbiased, objective, "don’t be married to your own words" kind of mentality that I can muster, this novel no es bueno. But am I going to give up? Hell no, for two reasons: 1) there was a long time in my life when I believed that this novel would be my first foray into the world of writing and make my impact on the countless citizens of the world who would be forever changed after reading my prose, and 2) it’s practically done. I mean, it’s 200 plus pages of content. Is that content kind of crappy? Sure, a lot of it may be. But much like Sisyphus pushing that big boulder up the hill, I will keep on trucking. And you know what book graced the New York Times Best seller's list in 2012? Fifty Shades of Grey. Just saying.

How much did I actually get done in Starbucks last Saturday? To preface, do you know how loud a cappuccino machine can be? Do you know how many tourists come into a Starbucks on a Saturday afternoon, speaking various languages and bumping into you with their big backpacks that they always seem to wear on their front so no one will steal from them?  (If you’re worried about crime on a Saturday at 2pm in Cambridge, then it’s going to be a long, hard road ahead.) Have you ever hit that point where you've had too much caffeine and the world is really bright and shiny and your feel like your head just might float away?

So I did not get much done. Maybe 10 pages were written or heavily edited, and about double that amount skimmed. There was also a long period of time when I honed in on the punctuation, appropriately titled each section, and inserted page numbers and a header for the document. But you can’t build a house without a solid foundation. Punctuation, matters!

This resolution by the numbers:
New content written: 10 pages
People on their laptops: 7
People actually reading books: 1
Cups of coffee, tea: 2, 2 (respectively)
Other Starbucks visiters: roughly a bajillion

Next resolution: indoor trampolining allegedly burns up to 500 calories an hour. But how many calories are burned falling down on a trampoline?

15 January, 2013

Resolution #1: Riding the Wagon

Before the hangover hit, last New Years was a good time. I remember it mostly through snapshots from my memory and retold stories from friends. Standing on the Longfellow Bridge, straining to see the fireworks that were blocked by the buildings in the financial district. Toasting pedestrians as they crossed, coming and going from the city proper. Little troves of boats gathered in a semi-circle on the water, one of them reflecting white Christmas lights which someone had strung over the bow. I sang Auld Lang Syne with (and at) other revelers as they streamed past, and felt like I knew all the words. It was a couple of magical moments.

But we all looked so happy...

After that, things start to get a lot more blurry. There was a car, my boyfriend (the DD), and a car ride on the highway back to his apartment in the middle of nowhere, Connecticut, because he had to work on New Years Day. There was a brief but intense moment of motion sickness, followed by a mandatory pitstop at the Blandford plaza. 

There were many sad people at the Blandford plaza that night, staring at themselves in the mirror outside McDonalds, mascara smudged, wobbling a bit, unsteady on their feet at such an hour. There was much sadness and some regret in that little rest stop off the highway. But there was also a silver lining, because it showed me that any man who will clean upholstery while a snifflingly sad girl wanders away and then saves her from giving away her mobile technology because, in her words, she no longer deserved access to the world wide web, well, then he is probably going to be a pretty good dad. I’m sure parenthood cannot get more trying than that.

After that night, I subsisted on plain pasta and crackers, and thought a lot about my life. People tend to do that when they’re housebound and sick, dreaming of the things that they’ll do once they’re back on their feet and contributing members of society. Self-induced sickness bears its own unique and painful cross, and the realizations borne there seem to carry a more substantial weight.

During this time, there was a lot of quiet reflection on the cool tile floor, wondering where it all went wrong. There was manic flipping through channels because, god damn it, nothing good was on tv, and people were talking just way too much to follow and haven’t we already seen the Magic Bullet informercial three times already?! Sunlight was no longer my friend, but a scathing laser beacon sent down from God reminding me of my bad choices. It reprimanded me, scolding me that that, elsewhere, children were playing on a playground, sliding down a slide and enjoying the way the warm sunlight hit their cheeks as it reflected off the metal. And I hated them. I hated these hypothetical children for their strong, nausea-free stomachs, for their carefree ability to walk around without loathing every muscle and bone and cell of their being, for their blissful ignorance of the hell that they would inevitably inflict upon their bodies at least once in their adulthood.

Some of the solo cup carnage.
It was not a pretty, nor overly empathetic couple of days.

Right then and there, in my dehydrated and chastened state, I made a decision: I would ring in the next New Years sober. Stone cold , devoid of any traditional adult imbibements, seatbelted firmly onto the wagon, abstemiously sober. It would be one of 52 resolutions that would come throughout the year. Because I wanted to do so much more than lie prostrate on bathroom floor, resenting my poor life choices and how much I still hadn't experienced. I was going to dance in the rain, shout off the edge of a cliff at the top of my lungs, visit the Grand Canyon, and do a whole bunch more meaningful but smaller-scale resolutions that I won’t put here in the hopes that you’ll keep reading my blog every week thinking that I’ll do something super exciting that you should totally tune in to.

But back to New Years. Though experienced with clear, unobscured eyes, New Years night itself was still pretty fun. I got to play emcee for what is arguably the most fun party game on earth, Scattergories, to a crowd thought I was more uproariously hilarious and clever as the night went on. There was a fire in the fireplace, delicious snacks, and loud sing alongs to classic songs from the '80s and '90s. The crowd commented how cold and sad the New Yorkers looked, packed so tightly together and slapping on smiles as the cameras panned by. We talked about how wonderful it was to have convenient and easy access to a rest room, and people refreshed their drinks. Then, like many Americans, we counted down from thirty as the ball dropped with Ryan Seacrest, and kissed cheeks and sang along to Auld Lang Syne when midnight came.

Soon after the stroke of twelve, I donned my new pink snuggie, courtesy of my mom and dad (thanks mom and dad!). The rest of the night was spent lounging in comfort, talking and laughing and singing and snacking. My memory starts to get muddled after four am because, honestly, my brain can no longer function past two in the morning. Boston shuts down after the last train at 12:25am, and my body and mind have completely acclimated. I don’t hate it, even on New Years. Even if I had been drunk... maybe.

Friends got in on the snuggie action.
Resolutions are all about learning about yourself, your limits, your strengths, the areas you want to improve. So what did we all learn here? Well, we learned that even someone who once wrote about how many different ways drinking was culturally acceptable and necessary to adulthood could survive, nay, thrive while sober at a social event focused around drinking and debauchery. We learned that people really like singing songs once they hit that certain point in the evening, and that if your song choices are familiar and reminiscent of their youth, well then, you're their new best friend. We learned that after a certain hour, one will be so much happier if they are in comfy clothes. And we learned that, above all, waking up on New Years before noon and grabbing breakfast with some friends is a pretty novel and fun experience, even if the rest of your friends were fairly hungover and one of your friends went to bed at 6am after sleeping in someone’s basement. And, sadly, we (I) learned that even when trying your best, you just may end up throwing up in the restaurant bathroom for unexplained reasons, feeling like the waiter is totally judging you even though you held true to your resolution of ringing in the New Year sober. But after all that, you can still go home and take a three hour nap because, hey, why not? You stuck to your guns, had some fun with friends, and set the tone for the rest of 2013.

You learned that it's going to be a good year.

For my next resolution, I will spend an afternoon in Starbucks “writing my novel.” And I will try to refrain from wearing black plastic frames, a big scarf, and donning an affected, “you will see my name in lights one day, plebians!” attitude. I will hopefully be mistaken for someone very, very important. And avoid passing out from a caffeine overdose because, you know, Starbucks. And live to tell the tale. Onwards to resolution #2!

09 January, 2013

One Thing

Why, hello. No, you are not mistaken, I am posting in my blog. You know why? Because it's 2013. It's a new year, ripe with possibilities and untarnished aspirations and countless goals and dreams for the coming months. New Years is a time to take a moment and take a deep breath, to spend some small amount of minutes reevaluating your life: where you are, what you’d like to do, and where you see yourself by the end of the year. At least, that's what it's always been like for me.

To me, New Years is the adult version of the first day of school. You gear up for it for weeks, imagining yourself in your best form, a person without that deeply annoying habit of biting your fingernails, of slouching, or of ending sentences with, "you know?," you know? When you're younger, you get a new wardrobe that can reinvent who you are, and more importantly, who you want to become. You get binders and pencils and books to make you smarter, and maybe even some new friends in new classes with new subject matter to make you grow into a more intelligent, more well-versed adult, the kind that knows things like where the golgi apparatus is inside a mitochondria and that can recite “Oh Captain, My Captain” at will.

Sadly, all that newness kind of goes away when you grow up. Sure, when you're older you get gym memberships that you're fully going to commit to this year (not like last year), maybe some new clothes for New Year’s Eve if you have a social gathering, but ultimately after school ends you lose that crisp exciting feeling of newness and resolve. Except for on New Years.

Looking at most of the adults I know, it seems like if you're lucky, you get a few days off from work to spend with friends, family, or Ryan Seacrest on tv, maybe sipping something deliciously bubbly but internally remarking how utterly unremarkable the stroke of midnight always seems to be. Except for New Years, because of the all-too-critical tradition of making important New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions make the whole pomp and circumstance of New Years seem that much more definite, more life-changing. You can finally make a commitment to yourself on a significant day (and not just any random Tuesday) to run that marathon, to speak up more at work, to finally learn how to speak Spanish to seduce that sexy vecino of yours. You would know what vecino meant if you had committed to learning Spanish, already.

My resolution is a little different, and is something I'm referring to as my "one thing." Many moons ago, back when we Massachusetts people donned skimpy swim wear and visited tiny, rocky beaches and pretended that we didn't have work on Monday, I got sick with a little something that the doctors are pretty sure was maybe West Nile. The verdict is still out. But regardless of what it was, it was just plain awful. I spent many weeks slumped over, stuck over indoors, being ache-y, watching entire seasons of tv pass by on Netflix, and generally feeling a whole mess of self pity. I no longer considered myself a contributing member of society, heck- I just called it a small victory if I could get through the morning without puking. Those were not my shiniest, most noteworthy hours.

So, once I started to escape the confines of my sick bed, I decided I would do one good thing a day that would make me feel like a real person. Just one good thing. That good thing could count as me paying off a bill I had been putting off for far too long, or writing a little note to someone I had been thinking about, or spending an entire evening without the internet (gasp). These actions were not revolutionary or innovative by any means, but they did make me feel a little less guilty as I crawled into bed at night. Because if I did my one thing, then that day was not a waste. It was just one thing, but it made me feel like a better, more complete person, a real adult.

Gradually, I got healthier, but I still kept to my one thing. And as I got stronger, my one thing started to get stronger, too, expanding to include things like gathering friends I'd been meaning to see, taking trips home I'd been meaning to take, reading books I'd had on a wish list that dated back to well before college, maybe even high school. They started to take a bit longer than one day, and that’s why, for this New Years, I am expanding my list again. For it is, after all, a new year full of promise, opportunity, hopefully health, and god willing, going viral on YouTube. Because that is one thing that is on my list of things to do, see, or experience this year. Fingers crossed.

Some of these one things may be small, like spending an hour doing nothing (victory is only counted if I manage to not fall asleep), some may be slightly larger (like to take part in a protest for a cause I believe in), some involve other people (like to sing what is arguably the greatest sing-a-long song known to man, Walking in Memphis, at a karaoke bar) and some are just plain practical (learn how to shoot a gun, or to host an R. Kelly "Trapped in the Closet" marathon).

The point is to finally do all those things I'd been thinking, "hey, that'd be pretty cool, maybe one day.” Because today is that one day. This year is that year. And, of course, for posterity’s sake, I'll be writing about it and providing photographic evidence when possible. Because personal growth should be shared, and this is my blog, and if you think my life goals are dumb or this blog is dumb, you can take some advice from my crotchety old Armenian grandmother and go scratch. There, I said it.

My first resolution was to ring in the New Year sober. Did I fail the first of my resolutions? Or did I complete my first task because I remembered last New Years where I drank from a bottle of Kraken rum on the Longfellow Bridge, kissed random passersby, got sick in a car, and tried to give away my iPad to the kind women at the Blandford stop on the Mass Pike because I was convinced that a depraved being such as myself no longer deserved such nice things as access to the internet and touch screen capability? Will I tell you the whole story in the following post? Guess you'll just have to tune in next time to see.