Sunday, May 31, 2009

Coyote in the City

I stepped into the street gripping two wild—yet fluffy—white dogs. They tugged at the end of two tattered leashes, gnawing their teeth, ripping up handfuls of grass as we entered the park. Movement down the blacktop caught my attention. It didn’t look like a dog. Bigger, different rhythm to its gait. I'd left my walking glasses inside and didn't have my reading glasses. I squinted, what is that?

From across the street, Kathy came flying out of her house. “Coyote, coyote!” she yelped. Rod whipped past on his 22-speed ready to take on anything, but mostly to get a closer view with immediate plans for a quick get-away. Joyce cornered a couple coming out of the schoolyard with their black dogs and filled them in on the commotion. Her arms waved wilding as she worried over whether to work in her garden. "He ran into the woods behind my house."

As biker Bob rolled up on his motorcycle she ran into the street and stopped his progress towards home. "Coyote, come see!" she encouraged. Bob shook his head overdue for breakfast and putted his Yamaha two doors down. Joyce blinked; baffled at her next step she turned towards me.

Never to be deterred from adventure I took her elbow and guided her towards her house. "I'll check it out with you," I assured. She opened the door and I followed, pulling out my camera. I fingered the steel button as we traversed through the house watching for the green dot to indicate: prepared. Yes, I purred, we're ready.

Hardened adventurer though I am, I did take a deep breath. Something wafted through the room, an aroma. I sniffed the air. I liked that smell. I flicked my eyes around and spied a hefty coffee mug neglected on her kitchen table and wondered briefly where the pot was and whether I could just mainline the brown liquid.

Joyce softly slid the slider open. Without making a sound we stepped out onto her broad deck, and I offered a silent, poignant prayer there would be java at the end of this detour through my carefully planned day.

I stayed safely on the deck. Feet firmly planted. Snapped a few photos and threw a worried glance as Joyce skipped off, slowed and crept through the grass. "Nothing scares me," she noted, whispering over her shoulder, "Except your barking dogs."

I nodded. "Yes, those little beasts sound big, and admittedly badly behaved when out, but darling in the house," I offered.

She narrowed her eyes on me. "Sure," she agreed, not agreeing at all.

Photo session ended without sight of our new undomesticated 'neighbor.' "Hey, thanks," I noted snapping my camera back into its holster. "Maybe I'll come back for coffee."

"How about beer?" she suggested, and knew we'd be close friends for a long time.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gems within old leather bound books

My dad thrust a small book in my hands and exhorted me to read a couple of the chapters. His finger tapped the open pages to draw my attention to exactly which two. I nodded a quick 'uh-huh' and set the book aside. Later that day, a twinge of guilt plucked at my conscience and I picked up the book from where I had discarded it. I cracked opened the old green leather and thumbed through the thin beige pages. I ought to at least read a little something, I thought.

I scanned the text, stopped and re-read. There are gems in old books.

A story should first of all mean something, should have some value to the reader for the better understanding or living of life. The second requirement is that it be presented in a form of beauty.

From the General Introduction of The Best Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, 1924.

Books should offer meaning, value, beauty. I couldn't have received a more poignant message. Thanks, Dad.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Everyman's War

Karen works with me. She's a great advertising professional but better judgment failed when she allowed her husband to sneak out late at night and crawl back home practically frozen. What was he doing? He was acting in a movie, Everyman's War. Despite the ravaged look in his eyes (photo above), he's also known as Clark County's 'George Clooney' or at least that's what Karen likes to tell him.

Rick is quite capable talking anything electrical, and at this weekend's premier the audience discovered he is also adept at barking orders. “Everybody out of the truck. Grab your weapons and ammo….we got a five mile hike down this rail line,” shouts Platoon Sergeant Speck.

Everyman's War sat around waiting for a distributor, then director Thad T. Smith reported:
  • ShowWest in Vegas went great, Sony Pictures Classic is interested in the film.

  • Accepted as an official selection into the GI film festival in Washington DC in May! Really cool!

  • Also have a deal cooking to distribute it through the National Guard to all bases worldwide! We are planning to do another film right away if that goes through.
Good luck, Thad! Wishing you all the best.

Questions remain. ..

After visiting the set, will Niko, Rick and Karen's son, get bitten by the acting bug?

Will this jump start Mr. Rick's Hollywood career?

If it does, will he still have to help with the dishes?

Where is Rick's listing on IMDB?

Does Rick always have that wild look in his eye?

And of course, Rick is coming soon to a company cubicle near me. He promises to sign as many autographs as it takes for Karen to wrap up scheduling the pile of customer's advertising campaigns and come home with a big commission check. She's good. Probably won't take too long. Rick...
RICK! You can put the gun down, now.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Harrison Ford mixes it up with cute shoes

I put on my cute shoes yesterday. In total preparation for the meet and greet with Harrison Ford. It made it difficult to work. I'm sure he was as nervous as I felt, and likely neither one of us got enough paper pushing done.

Well, guess what? I think we got our wires crossed, because Mr. Ford did not meet me, he met my friend Dale Chumbley, who authorized use of the evidence. Dale's picture appeared in the local media, and after Dale begged me sufficiently, I relented and agreed to allow him to post his picture here on my blog.

Before Dale got all famous and began hanging out with famous movie-star-directors he labored with me in the local media. I gave Dale work orders and he drove the company's customer service car. Dale wasn't done with my family and went on to work with my sister. I've written about her before, she's my OLDER sister, always has been. One of the most amazing aspects of Dale is his continuous smile, joyous embracing, of life no matter what the obstacles and he's had a few, and his professional dedication to his real estate clients.

Now, real estate is something I know about (no, I don't). In fact, there's a pinch of real estate in my manuscript, commercial real estate, joint venture deals, unauthorized movement of money, a big fight between Kerri Ann and her husband Lee...

There you go, allowing things to get all sidetracked on ME, when I wanted to share Dale's good fortune. Take a look!
Thanks, Dale! You're the best. I'll be buying that cup of coffee for you now, and catching up on all your news. (I think I have that backwards, the conversation will likely be all about me, but you already knew that).


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Harrison Ford is sitting in my desk

"Did you know that they were making a movie in your old-new building?" my sister asked over IM.

"Yes," I typed back. "I went down to allow Mr. Ford to meet me, but he was afraid he might say something to embarrass himself and stayed in his trailer."

I know you're thinking, Mr. Ford? Why so formal, why not just dive in and call him Harrison? Well, to be honest, he hasn't met me yet. We would have to be properly introduced to go by first names. He can't just walk up and say, 'Hey, The First, how's biz?'

Ford might be shy. I am not. I paid no attention to the closed sidewalk signs, just marched right up, and said, "Hey! Hey guys, yoo-hooooo."

They had to crawl out of their equipment trailer, but we had a lively discussion. They posed gladly for a picture then asked to shake my hand -- it was a ploy to get close to me. I complied. Everyone smiled.

Picture below are the grips working on Harrison Ford's next movie, Donny and Chip. (I'm not sure those were their real names, he doesn't look like an Osmond, and who calls their kid Chip?)


Saxophone lessons on life

It occurs to me occassionally, I should save my current manuscript-in-process on a jump drive. That thought flutters marginally prior to another fleeting butterfly, jump drive should be stored separate from laptop.

Loss of an expensive piece of equipment I could shrug off, in a teeth gnawing sort of way, but lose current manuscript? That would be cause for major eruption of emotion.

For the above reason, I sit in the cool, dimly lit interior of Ape Over Music while daughter receives her first saxophone lesson. Why saxophone? Good question. I have NO idea.

At age five I began piano lessons and continued through college. Somewhere in-between I took accordion lessons, and still love the blast of the bellows every few years or so, (whether anyone needs it or not). I tried to teach myself the recorder and the ukulele, and I’ll admit to picking up the guitar and the violin with intense longing, but no perseverance. My musical taste is quite eclectic. My talent is not.

Saxophone. Hm. Assembling fragments of ideas suggest my daughter was drawn to the saxophone because cute guys inhabit band. This idea scattered at the first concert. All the really cute guys are in the advanced class, including ‘The Magician,’ the blond boy everyone has a crush on, except my daughter.

I carefully download part one and part two of the current manuscript and store on the jump drive that's been bouncing around my laptop bag. I consider wearing the jump as jewelry, then pause and listen for the sound of the sax.

My daughter took piano lessons for a year and a half. No break. I usually took summers off. She wanted to keep going. Unfortunately, she hit the wall of burn-out, plunked the cover down on the piano keys, and took a year and a half off. Her desire to receive instruction from a different teacher has not met with success. I can’t find one!

Enter saxophone lessons. At first meeting the teacher, Mr. Gregorio, spent five minutes talking to me about the student who had just left, five more minutes on my kid’s school and their over emphasis on jazz. I blew out a breath and eyed my watch. A third of the lesson gone, I jostled check book, coffee and pen in an effort to move this forward. Check in hand, he showed no signs of slowing the chit chat, so I interjected a formal introduction to my daughter, and extracted myself to laptop-land.

I tap my fingers around the keyboard, piddle-play with words, moving sentence parts, piecing, re-threading. Five minutes before the predicted end of the lesson, I hear the sound of the sax. Hmm. I think we have a talker here. I hope we also have an avid listener.

My mother dropped me off for umpteen-thousand lessons. Shelled out cash for good teachers, one bad-smelling, but well dressed old lady, and a few exceptional professors who drove me toward muddy goals. First stop for me was to look pretty playing the piano, just like mom. Next stop: to play better than my sister. Third: to play better than anyone I knew. That worked well until higher education. Some of my co-keyboardists make a living at performing, composing and recording. They were tough competitors. (The First Carol waves at Michael and Jim).

The guys behind the counter serenade my keyboard tepid clicks with a mix-tape from a friend’s band. It wafts over gently tugging and pulling out feathers of feelings and mixed images.

Music-and-men. In my twenties, I chased many musical crushes and thankfully never landed one. Artists should be admired not married. I spent a long summer on the road as a singer in a group. That grueling experience insured I would never be lured by a career in the music entertainment industry. Not everyone is nice climbing a career. It’s not the glamour we fantasize. You can get really sick of restaurant food when that’s the only choice you have.

The coffee is not kicking in, and Moonrat’s challenge to write your @$$ off is drowned in reminiscing instead of productive effort. Sigh.

The lesson continued past the allotted half hour, sneaking up on the hour. Quality sound intermixed with sophomoric pulses burst past the less than sound-proof teaching rooms. Teacher and student emerged. Triumphant. Smiles. New plan.

“Your daughter will progress quickly,” Mr. Gregorio, predicts, and I notice his right eye waters and appears cloudy. “I’ll help her skip a year and advance to the next level.”

Ahhh, I comprehend. Skip forward and sit next to those cute guys in advanced band. So, that was the push for saxophone lessons.

It’s not always easy to be a parent, but sometimes it’s kinda fun, like playing a grand detective game, and I think I may have figured this one out.

So what's your gig: musician, misplacer of valuable assests, detective, or prying parent?


Monday, May 18, 2009

Write better faster

The world is full of interesting people. Some of the best have met ME!

Laura Whitcomb encountered me at a Willamette Writers event. I was an attendee, she was the featured speaker. I entered excited for our encounter. She smiled and posed for a picture and probably laughed after I disappeared into the crowd. Some people are not sure what to make of me, including me sometimes, but I’ve found a smile and intelligent banter can get you just about anything, including working up your own courage. Hah!

Whitcomb opened the evening lecture, Diving into the Fetch, by noting she completed twenty novels and novellas before selling her first book, A Certain Slant of Light. She went on to co-author a second, a non-fiction work with Ann Rittenberg, Your First Novel: An Author Agent Team Share the Keys to Achieving Your Dream, which published a year later.

How do you find such good fortune? As I said in the prior post, First Friday is for Friends: “You work hard, you mix it up, and you get lucky.” Remember, the luck comes when you’re working hard. Oh, and creating a good relationship with your agent has its perks, too. In a follow up email Whitcomb corrected an error I had made on which of her books sold on a synopsis and writing sample. She noted, “Your First Novel was already a deal Writers Digest had set up with my agent and she chose me to write it with her. She already had a great platform, being a hot lit agent, and she got her top client, Dennis Lehane, to write the forward. I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to get such a cool gig on my own with only one novel under by belt at the that point.”

She is modest in her self assessment. Dedication to her writing craft continues to produce publishing success in even doses. The Fetch sold on a sample and a synopsis. That almost seems unfair when you consider the hordes of writers who slave over queries, only to be turned down due to weak sentence structure, misuse of adverbs, and vagaries of the market, but what the hay, let’s celebrate someone’s good fortune, maybe it will rub off. And remember, there's twenty books under her book-belt before one saw print. At the end of the day, good writing sells good books, and I'll figure out a proper query letter, eventually.

Whitcomb’s success in finding a publisher made her giddy and sublimely willing to overlook the challenge to produce within the publishers dictated timelines. She stupidly (her word--not mine) said, “Yes! I can do this, because I’m so excited.” When the enthusiasm dust settled, she realized she had a limited number of weeks to deliver. She needed to come up with a way to get at a better draft faster. She needed the fourth or fifth draft the first time out. It was that fast part that drew the audience into hushed silence, including me. What? You can have a book in less than two-kazillion drafts? That got my attention.

As she developed her techniques for speed she ended up pitching another book. What? Write two books at the same time? “When you’re working on one project you daydream about doing something else,” she mused. That daydreaming part I totally understand.


Whitcomb highlighted her habits to us that evening, and the full detail is captured in her book, Novel Shortcuts.

Begin with a sense of wonder. All that matters is creating a sense of wonder for the reader, drawing them in to you and why you have to write the story.

Use story telling devices. Voice, point of view, and tone carry weight, but what makes the difference is the story telling device. “It’s okay to make up a device to serve your own purposes. It’s not like grammar that already has rules, or the hero’s journey with a logical path. It’s no rules, it’s all you. It’s the way you tell the story.” Whitcomb’s latest release, The Fetch is told as a knight’s tale. Unique perspectives can be a great device.

The cross hairs moment. Grasp the most important moment in your novel, the one that lies within the rifle sight. It’s not always the climax. Example: in The Dead Zone by Stephen King, the cross hairs moment does not lie in the action part, nor the end, but it’s when the idea is posed, what if you could go back in time and kill… Whitcomb noted, “In my ghost story, A Certain Slant of Light, two ghosts are borrowing teenagers’ bodies. The cross hairs moment is when they realize they’re going to have to give the bodies back.” Aim for the cross hairs moment in your book and understand the compelling reason for each chapter.

Shortcut to the scene. Whitcomb is a list maker. She makes a list of what to put into a scene, basically what needs to happen and what she thinks the dialog will be, then she writes for ten minutes full speed thinking only about emotions, senses, metaphors and similes she might like. Her work at this juncture focuses on the creative development rather than the structure. She prints out her list and 10-minute writing sprint and puts them next to her keyboard. “I was able to write scenes three times faster, almost exactly like the published book,” she reported. “It’s like a cheat sheet, but it’s not somebody else, all of that is you.” What? Almost exactly like published book? I should give up now, right? (Nah).

Balance: scene, summary, and reflection. Whitcomb found her balance by accident, and equated her AHA moment to watching her four-year-old nephew riding his two-wheeler with training wheels. Once the paired wheels came off, he had trouble turning without putting his foot on the ground. The moment he learned to use his balance, throw his weight from side-to-side to initiate the turn, he had his AHA moment. The revelation on his face at this discovery was a mirror of hers when she unearthed the balancing act in her writing, juggling scene, summary, and reflection. Stabilizing this trio is like riding without training wheels.

To explain scene-summary-reflection she described developing an emergency room scene. “You capture everything that is said (scene). You summarize people going home, their first night, first week, that takes a paragraph (summary). Or, you go directly from the emergency room and encounter the character thinking about death. Here the narrator ruminates or philosophizes (reflection).” She came to her balance with practice. “My first reaction as a young writer was to only write scenes, some are boring, because I should have had made them summaries.” (There's hope! Not everything in print is perfect).

Visual Aids. Have visual clues handy that communicate who your characters are and all the details you need to keep track of to weave into the story. “Sometimes it gets complicated, so draw yourself a map.” Whitcomb described her map, but for some things you had to be there, me trying to relay would get us both lost.

Stealing tricks from the best. Whitcomb assured, “It’s actually not stealing, because you’re not really taking material from anyone.” Doing this helped save her a lot of time rewriting tricky or difficult scenes, “Writing a really great entrance for a character, writing something to foreshadow before a climax, a scene that has mixed perception—what happens in the scene perceived one way by one character and completely different by the another, sex scenes.” Her technique is to read an author who excels at a particular specialty, pull their scene apart, and emulate it.

Let's start a list of great scenes to review to aid our writing. Leave the author, scene-type, and book example in the comments.

Don’t ignore Ghosts. “Ghosts are little thoughts that keep bugging you, even though they seem pointless and you keep pushing them away.” She mentioned items that float through her head, song lyrics, a scene from a play, and admonished, “Pay attention. The ghost is coming to you for a reason. There’s something in that seemingly irrelevant thought that is going to help in what you’re working on.” (This idea might also help slow you down before pulling the trigger on that not-ready-for-agent-review query).

Use Art. Allow art to get at the deeper emotion, the real core emotion that’s hidden under layers and layers. “Listening to music puts me in the mood of my current novel faster than anything else. True beautiful, memorable and strong, and preferably without lyrics.” Whitcomb creates mix tapes to jump start her writing. A favorite source are sound tracks from movies.

It stinks. What to do? Back track. Read the last sentence first. Is it bad? Keep reading backwards. If she hates the next to the last sentence she reads the next-next to the last sentence, until, “Now that is the last great sentence I wrote!” She recommends to keep going back until you find quality, and delete everything in between. “I don’t need slightly better written crap, I just need good stuff,” Whitcomb assessed.

I need a miracle. Goals. Self-imposed deadlines helped Whitcomb get past the finish line, and she works best when they are attached to something real. “I want to get the first draft done by 'this date,' because my friend is going out of town, and she said she’d read it.” Make it real to make it work, and support it with positive visualization, a mantra or made up word. Get creative!


Laura Whitcomb's success has come from asking the what if question. She uses well known or historical events and asks, “What if something is happening underneath the surface that you dOn’t know about?” She explores the murky depths and while she may write about dark places, she doesn’t actually write horror, despite being listed in the category, right after Twilight and, er, Twilight.

“I always write about the light, I believe there is light and love at the core of the universe and inside every human being. It’s why were here,… sometimes human beings hate, and do things that are dark things, but I think we are hopeful beings. That’s what draws me to the stories I read and the stories I write. We are lit from the inside with a common flame,” she concluded.

Burn bright little flame, I've got some writing to do, and quickly!


Friday, May 15, 2009

Emergency Jesus kitsch

Anne Dayton tweets, "When I left last night, there was a full package of strawberries on my desk. This morning, half of them are gone. I'm trying not to be mad."

This calls for the only thing that will cheer Anne up: Emergency-Jesus-Kitsch.

Anne, if that doesn't make you feel better, I'll dig up some more kitsch, and I actually mean dig. It's in the basement in a scary storage area, and speaking of scary areas, here's something to curl your hair. (See below).

NO ONE would take anything from me. Everyone's afraid to venture into my cube. Even me!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fair responsibilities, unfair requests

Monday evening the air fluttered with talk of master plans, funding options, multiple phases,type II reviews, extensions, functional facilities, warehouse storage, access roads, RV parking, box office, promoter office, developer agreements, and livestock. Livestock? Yeah, bleating, mooing, clucking animals. Buzzzz. Even bees. I sat at the fair board meeting. Me. Closest I ever came to a farm was a visit, owned a horse once—well, half a horse—grew up with cats, and adult-on-my-own brought home a dog. What do I know about fairs, except cotton candy makes me sick and the Ferris wheel makes me scream, as in eek, I’m scared. How in the world did I end up on the fair board?

Interesting question (no, it’s not), glad you asked.

Not too long ago my manager promoted me into a supervisory role along with another employee. The manager began to slice up responsibilities. “Give me anything,” I said, “But not something that takes time out of my evening. I have parental responsibilities.” The other supervisor did, too, but his parental responsibilities included overseeing his crazy mother inbetween pursuing the full, happy life of a handsome bachelor who hangs out in the nicest pick up places. Bars. Guess who got the evening chore?

Now, every second Monday I sit in a room full of people my parent's age and talk about the county fair, and last night when they started talking about master planning, building, renovating, it just did something to my innards, as in ooh, yeah, baby. BRING IT ON. I LOVE A REMODELING JOB.

I adore remodeling so much I spent seven years putzing on our house. Then, after EVERY project went south from they ordered the wrong carpet, the paint is bubbling on the wall, they drilled a hole in the built-in cabinets in the wrong place, to the crap electrician wired for the washer, but NOT the dryer, I gave up. I could go on with a list of fifty gazillion more items, and no I am not kidding, just suffice it to say I hate knowing our first house would have been paid off by now (I know how to budget), instead, I had to tackle a dream that sunk courage into the deepest depression known to homeowners. That lament that starts, “Why, oh why did we decide to do this?” And ends with someone’s head banging against the wall. “Why?” Bang. “Whyyyyyy.” Bang. Bang. Bang.

I’m a crazy insane person. I love before-and-after, men who are skilled at their craft, the mess, the connecting of dreams with reality. Last night's fair board meeting was no exception. My hands curled into fists opening and closing, my heart started to beat faster and my breathing stilled to slow motion with each word that brought me closer to knowing someone would pick up a hammer and bust out a wall. It was chocolate to the soul. I floated on the heady fragrance of anticipation. Yes, we can tear something down and rebuild it. Can’t wait. Really, I want to do this. Especially if someone else is paying.

It’s an evil addiction with no Remodeler’s Anonymous to guide you out of the torture. I’m taking this hammer to hell.

So, where are you headed, what have you tried to remodel lately, or what has your boss asked you to do that took time away from your personal life? Bring it on, baby! My side addiction is comments.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, May!

The author, not the month.

May VanderbiltIn honor of May Vanderbilt's birthday, I completed reading her first book Emily Ever After. Vanderbilt co-wrote this book with Anne Dayton. The two met while working as editorial assistants at Randon House. Their release, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, is on my list as soon as I read all the books in-between.

I like to start at the beginning.

After reading one of my celebrity encounters, May’s online giggle introduced her as a friendly voice in the publishing world. My encounter on her website placed me a flip-flop, sticky note away from winning a book.

So, dear May, I will surely purchase your latest work, but in the meantime here’s my birthday present, a look at Emily Ever After…a review of sorts, a celebration for sure, and best wishes for the best year ever!

Emily abandons embarrassing parents, bratty twin brothers, friend Jenna—with the permanent, freckle colony face—and flawless California weather to live in New York City. At her East Coast destination a penny pinching roommate, an eccentric boss, a hot guy who attends church, and co-workers who swill in gossip, parties and fashion await.

The book's radiant voice draws us in to relive the stress of the first day at work, first stumbling steps into society, hedging the truth to parents, longing for the right kiss, and exploring how much we should change to fit in. Bright dialog interspersed with tussling inner thought causes us to cheer for Emily and chuckle at her uncertain-certain path to embrace and change this world, before it changes her.

Dayton and Vanderbilt have captured the perfect cadence of memorable characters. Pure innocence awaking in the big city, Emily Ever After, is a delightful read that compels us to examine our beliefs and challenges our willingness to live like we really believe them.

Now, perhaps for Anne's birthday my daughter will write her own review. Psst, when is it??


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Flirting mirror

A laptop lay unopened at one end of the sofa at River Maiden the little coffee shop I frequent. Doesn't bother me, I can share, I thought, and scooted to the end farthest away and set up shop: plugged in, opened HP clam shell, booted up. I checked the coffee line. Long. I'd get the laptop warmed up and grab the end when it shortened.

The guy who'd left the laptop—only it wasn't his, it was brother's and he didn't know how to operate it to get online (Mac)—returned with his mocha and made big noise "Oh. You're going to sit there." He ahemed a few times, and believe me, it didn't matter, so I moved to the chair. Well, it wasn't having the sofa all to himself that he desired, it was the stool. "This laptop gets hot," he explained, asserting his needs over mine. He needed help of course, had to tell me his Mac issues, his background, scientist, biologist, carbon monoxide conversion mission, etc. Just kept warming up to me with all those questions. "Do you hang out here every Saturday?"
" Yeah."
" What are you doing?"
" Writing."
"Oh, you're a writer. If I heard your name would I recognize it?"
" Nope," I answered, with all confidence and slightly amused. He's flirting with me.

His friend showed up, knew about Macs, helped him get online, after I shared the clever code. Mr. Inept-Mac-Guy kept eyeballing me, talking loud, throwing out a conversation net large enough to drag me in, went so far as to ask if he could read out loud to me.

"Sure," I said, turning the situation over in my head, wondering how this innocuous encounter with a Colorado clown could be morphed into a blog post. He droned about the swine flu, told me why he assessed it wasn't as bad as everyone believed, gave the numbers on reported vs. confirmed cases.

"I see," I said, with an upward curving of the lips. "So only 45% are actually confirmed."

He stared at me as if he'd never encountered a woman who could actually calculate in her head. Rapid eye movement flew as numbers fought behind his chestnut irises to figure out a little comeuppance. His eyes flicked over his Mac screen and came up with new info. "Yes, and that gives you a sixteen percent death rate."

I nodded, gazed deeply into his soulless, scientist browns and saw my reflection, school teacher ingénue, whispers of chalk blushing my cheeks as I toyed with a difficult equation, one he'd like to help me with.

Smitten beyond belief with my good looks and intelligence he stuffed his muffin in my face and said, "Here try this, it's good."

I wondered if I should. He hadn't stuck it in his mouth only picked parts off. I hadn't had breakfast. Why the heck not? I plucked a strawberry sized-piece off and popped it in my mouth. Yummed and hummed and said thank you.

The realization gained momentum that my life had changed. I might as well admit it. The guys who now flirt with me—pretty much act the same as they always have, kinda self-centered—but now they look like this:

Of course the guys I WANT to flirt with look something like this:

But to those guys I kinda look like this:

Yeah, gotta love my smile.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Celebrities who've met my MOM!

“Long haired guy came in. Casual.” Mom began Sunday afternoon at Dad’s birthday party. Thus began the story of how she met author Jim Butcher in an Arizona bookstore. “He sat down and started to talk, and he was absolutely hilarious. He has kind of a weird sense of humor, but we enjoyed listening to him. Didn’t we?” She shook the birthday boy and Dad nodded awake. “He lives with his wife, son and…how does he describe his dog…I can’t remember. He was talking about his vicious dog, but his dog is a little tiny one. When he first got the dog—”

“His books are right here,” interrupted my sister, stepping over her snoring finance to examine one of the tottering pile of birthday books left on the table after the red velvet ice cream cake was consumed. “It says, ‘ferocious guard dog.’”

“Oh, right, so you're thinking it's ferocious like a—”

“Chihuahua,” my sister filled in, as if she’d been there instead of miles away. (BTW, she's my OLDER sister. I'm much younger, always have been).

“Not that small. Ferocious like a—

“Doberman,” sister stated.

“No. Smaller than that, it’s just a little, tiny-bitty thing,” Mom noted, as if describing a Chihuahua. “When he first got the dog it came up and stood outside his bedroom door and barked. Just kept barking.” (I’m not sure if it lost something in the year since mom heard Mr. Butcher illustrate the story, or if it takes so little to entertain Mom).

“Mr. Butcher got up to tell the dog to get quiet. The dog walked down the stairs—I guess his bedroom is upstairs—Mr. Butcher's bedroom, not that dog's bedroom. Actually, I don't think he mentioned the dog's bedroom. Oh, and it's probably not just Mr. Butcher's bedroom, he's married you know, and well, you hope the best for couples. Anyway, Mr. Butcher followed his barking dog downstairs into their front room. The dog paced back and forth, then he just stopped. Butcher thought, ‘What’s wrong with this crazy dog?’ In the morning they discovered a bear had tracked the same path the dog had walked, same back-and-forth pattern in front of the house. Oh, it was snowy, that's how they saw the bear tracks.”

Okay, that’s

“If he were to tell that story and you would be laughing,” Mom assured. “He was very relaxed,” she complimented.

So, here’s a salute to the clever, relaxed, hilarious celebrity who met my mom, and a shout out for the folks who listen, but can’t remember a good story. Love ya, Mom! And thanks to the guy who captured the moment on digital memory card. Happy Birthday, Dad.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

First Friday is for Friends

Affinity to art and creative people is in my nature, so naturally, I was attracted to downtown Friday night and the effervescent First Friday Artwalk. The evening began at the Marketplace, the venue for the previously mentioned Mayoral campaign kick-off. The hub event, sponsored by Pacific Continental Bank, offered an array of finger foods and their beverages flowed freely. Veronica from the bank remembered me AND my name. Can you imagine I make an impression on people? Watch out world. And thank God there are still folks in it who believe part of customer service is connecting with something important, the customer’s name. I only mention that because it’s a sub-theme in the book, being a people person vs. a strictly numbers person. I get that yin-yang thing going whenever I can.

To make sure no one felt snubbed, I made the rounds clutching my plastic cup of Pinot Gris, checking in with all the celebrities who have previously met me. My performance was flawless except for that stumble when I called former mayor Bruce, ‘Dave.’ I was distracted glancing at the name tag of the president of the bank, and since he'd never met me, I introduced myself. Duly impressed by my friendly banter, he smiled, and I took license to chat with said president about how my daughter had met Bruce/Dave when she was investigating her own future, political career. As soon as they chuckled I was on my way. I am here to make people laugh first, promote myself second.

First Friday continued to jam to the creative vibe of indigenous artists and I moved eagerly from Evergreen Boulevard over to Main to haunt Angst Gallery and mix it up with the less connected non-old-boys-network. The un-suits, i.e., the casual bring-it-on-world spilled onto the street and became the welcoming committee for artist Christine Eagon.

At the front door I encountered fabric artist Eliza Lane (pictured left) and exchanged a quick hug. Woman (pictured right) I’d previously crossed paths with in Uptown Village. She had swirled a mural wall with fantasy images and a celebration ensued. Both artists continue to create their unique and exquisite work as a side job to the other parts of life.

Most of my correspondence with Eliza comes via Facebook and blogs. Cherry Bombastic makes me laugh out loud. Lord, laughing feels good. This up close and personal encounter in the real world was akin to walking out of the black and white movie of your life into the land of Oz.

Eliza and I met in grade school, our kids’ grade school. Her blond son had sufficient crush on my dark-haired daughter to create elementary curiosity, a need to check in with each other at regular intervals, a movie ‘date’ that Eliza chaperoned, and lots of proximity planning. If "The Magician" was going to be somewhere, Kai maneuvered her way there, too. He plans on becoming a chef, and I delighted at the opportunity to have someone in our sphere who could cook. At this point, though, Eliza and I have concluded what is of utmost interest in fourth grade loses luster in eighth. Both kids have other diversions at the moment.

Eliza happily announced her acceptance into the master’s program at Portland State University. I shouted “Oooo, Oooo, OOLIGAN!” at the news. Last year, Ooligan Press met me at the Willamette Writers conference and expressed interest in my first four chapters, since rewritten four thousand times, so that now they might be good, but I still have to smooth out that first chapter; damn this writing career. Although, nothing came of their inquiry—I neglected to enclose the obligatory SASE to receive their form rejection via post—I did not lost interest in their mission to publish local writers with a bent to highlighting the local area. I worked my way through some of their published books and am currently in love, and I mean deeply, down to the soul smitten, with writer Geronimo Tagatac. His use of language in his short story collection, The Weight of the Sun, actually made me swoon. For real.

The right words wielded in the right way can pierce you.

My next move is to determine how to cross paths with Tagatac so I can fly in his orbit and dig into his brain and see where those words come from. If anyone knows him, please pass on my passion to share a cup of coffee and a chat. I am totally harmless and can offer references to back that up.

At the door step of Angst Gallery, I was mid-stream divulging how I embarrassed myself in front of the chancellor of the local university during Congressman’s Mfume’s event (fodder for future celebrity post), only to discover, that the woman Eliza had been talking to when I ran up all exuberant to get that girl talk going, was related to said chancellor. Erin assured me her dad would have found my antics humorous. I gave her a sideways glance and tried to convince myself it was true.

Inside the gallery I gave Christine Eagon heartfelt greetings and congratulations on her successful show, checked in with gallery owner Leah. Leah met me in that same grade school, yes she is the mother of a BOY, my daughter is networked with half of them in the city. I invest a couple of hours on Saturdays to give Leah relief, banking on future ‘mom’ and ‘art’ credits, and to support a friend fierce about our community, our kids and the world they'll inherit. Before departing, I entered into a quick chat with a man, yeah, I still look, and hustled out to figure out next steps for my Friday evening.

This may not come as a surprise, but I am not shy, and whenever I observe someone who’s face is vaguely familiar I cannot rest until I put the pieces together. I struck up the song, “Where do I know you from?” with this young lady, Cara. We decided probably no-where, paths just crossed on previous gallery events. The Cara conversation led to introduction of this man, Christopher Luna, the poet and blogger.

Now, I would have bought his book when I first noticed it, my daughter is unusually oriented to poetry, but he uses a bad word and I am a mom with standards, however, that does not prevent me from finding people the most interesting thing on the planet.

Well, we were just all so utterly interesting and fascinating and jibbering like fully intelligent people, when all of a sudden Cara pulled out her microphone to record our nonsense for KOUG RADIO.

How does an unpublished author find such good fortune? Well, you work hard, you mix it up, and you get lucky, and you don’t forget to plug your blog for the podcast. I named '' about three times, gathered up everyone’s business card and promised to bug them into infinity to become my fan on Facebook.

I am competively challenged, I MUST WIN. There is a New York Times best-selling author with 16 books to her name and only 195 Facebook fans. Currently, I have 77. Daily, I imagine the smug sensation when I best her.

Okay, and don’t get me started on my LinkedIN status. I finally threw myself into the fray and am clawing my way up to get over 546,800 network connections and beat KenB. Computer geeks have the most intensive networks. Oh, and by the way, thank you Dave, you shot me up 90,000 with your connection and I am grateful (film producers seem to have quite a following, too). And just in case you're wondering, pictures don’t lie, Cara was sufficiently impressed with my progress, she just had a rough time when I neglected to mention Koug Radio as a source when she asked where people should search for information about First Fridays.

My evening on the town ended in the park. Me and the transients snuggled on comfortable park benches. I dodged squirrels and leaves navigating towards laptop, and a couple of curious bugs to download event pictures to Facebook. I sat silent, basking in the glow of the beautiful city where I live and the great people who plan and promote creativity and looked sadly over to the building where I used to work… The $42 million structure stands empty, devoid of the necessary cash flow from our media business to pay the rent. We moved out end of year and continue to struggle in this volatile economy.

In that world, I am present, first, to lead a dedicated sales team fighting to make a dent in that debt, and second to leave them smiling when they’ve had a bad day, or at minimum to offer comfort, creative ideas on how to attack tomorrow, and shore up with praise, as I believe I work with the best individuals in the community.

We will make it through this year.


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