Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another Saturday Night and I Ain't Got Nobody

Well, I have my laptop at least. It's 1:20 in the morning and I've been working well since about 8pm. I started this afternoon around 3:30 but then there was time on Facebook and checking e-mails and making tea and staring at the screen and getting a bunch of somethings for my mother, never at the same time and often just as soon as I've sat down at the desk, and, oh yeah, watching Must Love Dogs on Oxygen (cute movie!). So basically, my procrastination skillz were in mad form tonight.

I do better at night anyways, always have. Something about that dark cocoon brings out the creative in me. These long vacation days allow so much laziness, so much inertia. No need to wake up with that alarm clock, no sir. I can hit the snooze a thousand times, or just go crazy and turn the whole thing off. Madness! But after a day and a half of wallowing in my totally craptastic bed, despite the surprise treat of a Highlander The Series marathon yesterday
(yes, I have a geek side - have you met me?), my back rebelled violently and compelled me out if only to spare my spasming muscles. And, you know, shower.

Now, I've got 12 new pages, 3,300 new words and they're good words, they're keen words. They set up my hero much more clearly, I think, or at least his motivations. I think. I'm never entirely sure. I'm learning that when you're aiming to complete a 100,000 word novel, it's kind of hard to keep track of everyone and everything all the time. Yes, an outline would probably help, but I get partially into writing one, and realize I'd rather spend that time actually writing. I start writing and get in the flow and then later have to go back and make sure the choices my characters just made are in line with what they made 30 pages ago and, if not, do I now have to rewrite those 30 pages? Ugh.

But it's satisfying to have another 12 done. To feel like I'm getting a handle on where this is going - sort of. Now I'm off to jettison my cats from the hateful bed so that I may wrestle clean sheets on to the wretched thing. Clean PJs, clean sheets, clean Kiersty.

World's at my feet, baby.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bet You Thought I'd Forgot

Did you really think I'd leave y'all high and dry?

For those of you interested in making the Long Hill Chapel Easter/Christmas casserole for this Christmas or any occasion, here is the recipe. Enjoy!


9 eggs
12 pieces of bread
2 boxes of sausage (20 links)
1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup
1 10 oz bar of cheese (I like to use the Vermont cheddar cheese)
3 cups of milk (optional)
1 9 x 13 pan

Grease 9 x 13 pan lightly. Combine eggs
in a bowl. Add soup. Whisk together eggs and soup. If using milk, add it here. I think it makes the casserole soggy and tend to ignore it, but feel free. Set bowl aside. Slice bread into cubes and sprinkle throughout pan. Cook the sausage (I recommend the microwave for this) and cut into small pieces. The last few pans I've made, I switched to the lite sausage and it's reduced some of the overt and, to some, overwhelming richness of the dish, which I've liked. Up to you. Sprinkle sausage throughout pan.

Grate the bar of cheese. As noted above, I prefer the Vermont cheddar cheese. You can buy already grated cheese to expedite things, but that would be cheating and I would know and would have to revoke your privileges to this recipe. I'm just saying. Plus, the casserole won't be as good. Buck up, spend the time, and grate the cheese. It'll take you all of 6 1/2 minutes, really, and you'll be glad you did it.

Once grated, sprinkle cheese throughout pan. Make sure the sausage and cheese are as evenly distributed in the pan as possible. Carefully pour egg and soup (and milk) mixture throughout the pan as evenly as possible. Cover pan with aluminum foil and place in refrigerator overnight. When ready to eat, remove pan from fridge (obviously), remove foil, and cook in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or so.

Remove, serve, and enjoy!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Well, That'll Teach Me to Shave My Legs in the Dark

I don't shave my legs regularly any more. I no longer wear stockings or pantyhose every day for work, so the need to have smooth flesh under nylon is obviated. I left that dubious joy with the demise of my publishing career and my 20s, which oddly enough coincided at nearly the same time, give or take a few weeks. That was also when there was at last the prospect of someone of the male persuasion seeing my legs bare. I am currently sans a man, so that option doesn't really come into play right now. On the plus side, there's no one I have to clean up for either. And it's winter, when having an extra layer is not such a bad thing. Come the summer, I'll employ my once-a-week regimen again, but I've got at least 5 months before I have to embark on that.

These days I save the contortions required to epilate for the rare special occasion when I might enjoy that extra bit of girliness. Such an event occurred this past week on Christmas Sunday. We, the church choir, were singing 2 choral anthems during all 3 of our church's Sunday morning worship services, which begin at 8:30am. As we do on Easter Sunday, when we face a similar worship marathon, we have a brunch for the choir and orchestra to enjoy in between the early services. I always try to make what my family calls the Long Hill Chapel Easter/Christmas casserole; it's an egg, cheese, bread, and sausage casserole with a can of cream of mushroom soup to add a nice tang. Out-of-this-world yummy.

I grew up at Long Hill Chapel and during my teenage years, my mother was the Hospitality Coordinator, basically coordinating any and all church social events from funerals to the annual mission's banquet. Big church = big job. Easter Sunday at Long Hill began with a sunrise service at 6:30am followed by brunch for those hearty 100-200 people who made it out in what was usually a really cold morning. This casserole is one that is made the night before and cooked in the morning. So while we were all singing in the sun with Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Mom and her cast of fives were cranking up Long Hill's industrial stoves and cooking casserole so we could all dive into it when service ended around 7:30. These days I make it for Christmas morning for Mom and I and I always bring it to the choir Easter and Christmas brunches where it's a big hit. (Two years ago, I wrote the recipe out for so many people at church and work [I made it for my account's Secret Santa breakfast] I can make it by memory now.)

I, however, do not have an industrial oven (though my new apartment's oven is a vast improvement on the archaic one I made due with in Weehawken), so for a 7:45am call for the 8:30am service this Christmas Sunday morning
, I was up at 5:30 to heat up the oven and get the casserole in so it could cook while I showered and got dressed. At that hour of the morning - really at any hour of the morning before 10am - I can barely contemplate consciousness much less add light to the equation. Ergo, I was showering in the dark, as usual, except for the nightlight, and, for some reason, decided that this was the right time to shave my legs. How hard could it be? I've been shaving since adolescence; it's not like I didn't know the motions intuitively by now. Besides, with enough shave gel on my legs, all I needed to do is follow the latent smears of gel to see where I'd finished and where I'd missed, right? Like a CSI Luminol test only for epilation. I mean, the gel is white after all, why else but to be able to see it in the dark?

It wasn't until later that day, post services, back at home when I was lying in bed with the kitties, pre-nap, that I ran my foot up my smooth leg - and found it, perhaps, in retrospect, unsurprisingly not so smooth. In fact, there were easily 4 or 5 patches where my modus opershave didn't quite do the job. That'll teach me to shave at 5:30 in the morning when I'm fool enough, or Polish enough, to do it in the dark. Still, no harm, no foul, no one but me and my Creator was the wiser. He's present for all these whackadoodle moments in my life, so I imagine it's not totally unexpected by now. He's there for the singing in the sun moments too. As well as those more poorly lit times of life, which, frankly, have been known to overshadow the sun singing parts.

These are some of the things I think of during Christmas.

Christmas never ceases to amaze me. Celebrating Christmas as a believer means to look on the stable scene and see not only a baby, but a redeemer. We cannot hear the angels announce His birth without noting their absence at His death. We cannot see the shepherds and wise men attend Him without remembering all those who abandoned Him, including ourselves. So many non-believers think we're nuts and foolish for believing in what must appear to be as real as something Hans Christian or those Grimm brothers dreamt up; it's certainly as bloody as any of those fairy tales (the original versions of those stories are gorier than a Dean Koontz novel). It is a fantastical story after all, no less so than for being true. But what they fail to see is that it is the weakest of us, the most flawed and vile that come to this stable, not the golden and perfect ones. We are the ones falling prone at the cross, overwhelmed by the love that hangs there in our place. It's not reserved for the special and holy, though they are there too, I guess, somewhere hidden by the rest of us rotten ones. We don't stopped being flawed and sinful simply because we accept Christ, in fact, we're often more aware of the missteps and failures we continue to make and be along the way. But we are then blessed to see a hint of the time when we will be special and holy as we were meant to be all along.

So we come to the manger full of awe and broken and sinful (that would be me), we lay down at the cross filled with grief and guilt and overwhelmed with selfish gratitude that we ourselves don't hang there instead (me again), we gape at the empty tomb, joyous and dumbfounded and unworthy and flawed and nasty and
damaged with full knowledge that we will be all those yet again (hi there!) and we are shown grace and mercy and unfathomable love over and over and over again. Unfailing, Unending, Incomprehensible Love.

Rejoice. Emmanuel has come.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lessons Well Taught

It's snowing today. Unless you've been living under a rock, this isn't exactly news. No offense to anyone actually living under a rock, although I imagine that would be a pretty cold rock right about now.

Last night was my office holiday party where I dusted off my atrophied pool playing skills without embarrassing myself too much. A rare event indeed. I actually made an outstanding combination shot that had to be seen to be believed - except no one was there to see it as my opponent had taken a potty break and no one else around me was paying attention. Typical. But then I won a raffle and got a $50 Home Depot gift card, so I was mollified.

I had traffic problems (must be a day ending in y) as I was winding my way from our sister office through idiot accidents on all major highways involving the number 8 - 280W, 80w, and 287N. I felt a little like Count Von Count from Sesame Street - EIGHT! EIGHT IS THE NUMBER OF THE ROAD! EH HEH HEH!!

Our office was a graveyard this morning, staffers wandering through the halls in ball caps and Saturday clothes. Thank God for bagel Fridays. Nothing like a deluge of carbs to weigh down a lazy morning. This close to Christmas things for us are fairly quiet, though our sister company is overwhelmed with launching several new brands for the new year and my department has been pitching in there for the last few months. Still, there wasn't a hell of a lot going on today. The snow didn't deign to start till nearly 10:00 when it blew in with a vengeance. Around 10:30, our CEO got on the paging system and played "Baby it's Cold Outside" and then gave us the gift of closing the office at noon. I think she was as eager as the rest of us to get out of there and home safe and sound. Unfortunately, her musical introit opened the floodgates for a flurry of Christmas songs on our office stereo - er, paging system - by anonymous deejays culminating with Porgy Pig's rendition of Blue Christmas, which I had nothing, nothing to do with, I swear.


At 11:30, our CEO sent out another e-mail that said, "if you're reading this at your desk - leave." I took her word for it, packed up, and invoked my Nanook of the North street cred to brave the elements. I couldn't clean my Honda off fast enough; by the time I finished with the passenger side windows, the rear window was covered over again. I finally headed out and, with the first slide out of the parking lot, settled in for the battle.

I do not understand why the slightest precipitation seems to rob the surrounding population of every brain cell in their collective heads. I just don't Get It. Please, whilst driving in a winter snowstorm, DO NOT get into the bloody left hand lane, cutting me off and spraying snow all over my windshield in the process, and then flip on the hazards and SLOW DOWN. Not Good.


A cavalcade of 18-wheeler trucks limped up the left-hand lane on 287N, blinding any and all possible visual perception. Nonetheless, I soldiered on, employing one or two slightly daring maneuvers, mumbling careful, careful to myself the whole way, as though willing my recklessness to behave more rationally until I managed to push through to an open pocket. See, the danger in driving in these conditions is not just only the treacherous roads or impaired visibility, but the stupidity of the complete and utter jack holes driving around you.

Anyways. My Honda behaved admirably, even on the vastly more treacherous local roads. This is when my stick-shift training came into use. I learned to drive in a VW Rabbit stick-shift that I affectionately called "The Turtle" not for its performance, but rather its dark green color. Plus, there was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle - Michelangelo, I think - that a friend had won me in the claw game on the Point Pleasant boardwalk. It held a place of honor on my dashboard for a while. Only four gears in that bunny, people, five if you count reverse, which I didn't. My father endured death defying feats in the parking lot of what used to be E. Toff Drug Store while teaching me tricks of the stick shift. Like the fact that you don't actually have to flip a turn signal fully on, but can just push it slightly with your finger and then release when done. This maneuver is best employed when changing lanes and helps prevent the toggle from getting stuck blinking ad infinitum while one drives on obliviously. And did you know? It also applies to automatic cars! He also taught me to downshift when approaching red lights so as not to wear out my brakes. Also a tidy thing to do in raging snow and rain storms so that the whole car works to slow down rather than its entire weight resting on the brakes.

See Dad, I do listen. Sometimes.

Though my Honda is an automatic, I still drive with my hand on the stick and if I'm driving a van or a rental car with the gear shift behind the steering wheel, every single time, my hand will still reach for the stick in between the seats, falling ignobly into empty space. And every time I drive in dodgy weather - like, say, today, - I still downshift on hills and through turns. At one point today, I was pulling out of a parking lot and had to stop behind a ginormous F-15000000 truck. He pulled out, no problem; but because I had to stop behind him, I was now stuck in a rut thanks to the local construction and, oh yeah, THE SNOW. Did I panic? I think not. I rocked the car into reverse and then plunged forward and free - learned on the stick shift baby. Later, as I was nearing home, sliding through my last left turn, and I do mean sliding as the roads had yet to be plowed, I reached for the stick to downshift and found it already all the way down in second gear or D2 as my Honda calls it. Ha! Yes, I actually thought to myself, HA!

Instinctive? Yep. A lesson well-taught nearly in spite of myself?

You betcha.

My young friend, Keyrsten, is learning how to drive now, with a mobile unit of prayer coverage hovering over her every step of the way. I've driven with her; I know of what I speak. She's no worse than I was at that age - and no cracks about how much better she may be than me now, thank you. But I think of these things when we talk about driving or when I'm picking her up from her job at the mall, or if we're driving somewhere together. I don't want her to pick up my bad habits, but I think of these good ones and hope she learns them. I think of the pleasure I still take in driving a stick shift car, in the control it gives you over the machine, in the joy of surging forward through the gears, the melody of 2nd to 3rd and 3rd to 4th. I drove a stick shift through nearly 2/3 of Ireland and loved every hill and valley I curved through (though perhaps not so much the bridge wall an 18-wheeler scraped me against in rain and the dark of Western Ireland.)

I guess I may have a few things of my own to teach well too.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Not a Domestic Goddess

It's not a revelation that I am not a domestic goddess. Well, not a revelation to me. Or to anyone who's actual seen my apartment. Nonetheless, there comes a time when even I have to step up and - gulp - do housework. I fail to understand why this has to be on my holiday weekend, but I imagine it has more to do with finally having the time than not being able to live with the dirt and cat fur anymore.

My Thanksgiving weekend was full with a capital F. T-day morning was spent being lazy before heading to my boss' for her usual awesome spread and cast of thousands. This is also where I discovered heretofore unknown mad skillz on the drums as I kicked serious ass on the Rock Band video game. Friday was the traditional trip to PA to visit grandparents - a long, late day with lots of driving, dodgy diner food, an overly warm apartment and the all important nap via recliner. I did get the chance to surf web sites with my grandfather as we searched for info on the aircraft carrier he served on in WW II. One of the sites had the boatswain's (or something like that) whistle that I could play for him. Ninety-year-old man grinning like a kid - priceless.

Saturday was shopping with Mom as we used up her birthday gift cards. Shopping with my mother is a trial to be endured with good supportive shoes, full mental/emotional armor, and a loaded flask. Sadly, I was sans flask. This is a woman who shops when she can barely walk - when I can barely walk. But I persevered, through Target, an abortive attempt at Walmart, and a successful if rude experience at Sears Hardware. Now, of course, about half of the stuff has to be returned/exchanged.

I then lost the battle against a live Christmas tree (my new furniture!!) and spent 10 cold minutes at the Lion's Club tree lot explaining to Mom that the happy, nearly 7 foot Douglas Fir she wanted would fail to fit under our 6 and a bit foot ceiling. We wound up with a 5 1/2 foot Canaan fir that is happy enough, I promise. Once home, I dragged the enormous Christmas decoration box out of the inferno that is my laundry/storage room, only to discover that I no longer owned a tree stand. Moving casualty. So off to Walgreens I went, tree still affixed to the roof of my car, like the Grinch and his sleigh only no Max.

And then came a frustrating hour setting the tree up.

How successful was I at this?

It tilts.

But so does my apartment, so really, from the right angle, it's actually straight.

Polish logic.

Sunday, I played hooky from church (yes, I know, I'm going to hell on an express elevator) and cleaned like a madwoman. This included installation of the new kitchen curtains (gift cards!) complete with hardware, a process that included creative swearing (why be dull?) mismeasurements, unscrewing the screws I just screwed (?) remeasuring, rescrewing...did I mention I'm not a domestic goddess?

On the plus side? Kitchen now looks bee-u-ti-ful.

I had planned to write this weekend, to clean things up for a submission, but Mice and Men have nothing on me for plans gone awry. It was 6pm Sunday night, back spasming, belly growling, before I was able to light my eucalyptus candle and set up my personal tea pot and matching cup and saucer with tasty Vanilla Carmel tea - all necessary elements for my muse to flow. Which she kind of did...but mostly didn't.

And yet? Still better than living in Weehawken.

How was your Thanksgiving - relaxing or fulfilling - or both?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Signs of True Friendship

It's a testament to true friendship when your fantasy lover is on the cover of People magazine as the sexiest man alive (and oh, is he ever) and not one, but two of your closest friends e-mail you within the same day to make sure you're aware of the development. It'll be three as soon as my sister gets with the program.

Perhaps they know me too well?


After the events of this past year, I feel I'm quite close to convincing God to give me Hugh in heaven as my reward. Lightening has yet to strike me for trying.


Australia premieres next Wednesday, but it's not as if I have a countdown clock for it or anything.

On newsstands next week.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It Smells...

...good. It smells really good outside today. So crisp and cold that the inside of my nose retracts, like brain freeze from a Slurpee - nose freeze sans Slurpee. The leaves are falling from the trees now and crunching under foot. J is outside practically every day with the snowblower, trying to keep the leaves under control with moderate success. As the leaves crackle and twist under foot and tire, the aroma breaks through the air and...smells really good. Musty and freash at the same time. When they get wet and rot, it'll be awful, but today, it was just lovely.

The sun was shining with yet enough clouds in the sky to keep it interesting. It was the perfect fall day; not yet cold enough for the air to smell of snow, but I could imagine it creeping in any day now. We've had such wonky weather since September with summer hanging on long after it had worn out its welcome. It was a lovely relief to need a coat today - or at least to consider wearing one. One of the reasons I like living in New Jersey is because we get all four seasons here in all their glory and misery. I could never permanently defect to the hotter climes my sister now enjoys down Arizona way. Fond as I am of the sun and devoted as I have been to its worship, I am easily bored and need variety. And you gotta admit, few places offer as much variety as Jersey.

In more ways than one.

I thought fondly of Gordon today accompanied by a rare fond thought for Massachusetts in general. I love Gordon College, almost in spite of itself. I am, however, less fond of the state of Massachusetts for various reasons. Autumn at Gordon is a truly unique experience. Coy Pond in all its glory bursting forth in colors that can never, ever be matched by man. Walking the back trails towards - er - the other pond whose name just flew out of my head. Watching lithe, muscular, sometimes (if I was lucky) half-naked young men scamper around the quad playing soccer and ultimate Frisbee.


I've had Gordon on my mind for the past few days as I've been plowing through the YA novel Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White, the fourth book in a series about the daughter of the first female President of the United States. In this new installment Meg, the daughter is starting college - after surviving being kidnapped by terrorists. The book is great and I happily sank into all 700 plus pages this weekend, emboldened by the fact that I haven't read a book in nearly a month. Shocking, I know, especially for a woman who used to read while walking home from grade school. But I can't write with someone else's voice in my head, so I've had to abstain. A particularly painful discipline when you consider that I have about 30 books in my TBR pile thanks to my NJRWA conference booty, plus a few others I've picked up on recommendation of the Dear Author Web site. I'm deprived, I know.

The college life descriptions while often vastly different from my own experience (what's this weird thing called e-mail and why is it in the dorm rooms? Jeez - we were glad to just have a phone in our rooms, much less a cell phone.) have stirred up college memories. With the book on my mind, the bump from the weather, and a valiant assist from Facebook, I've had Gordon on the brain a lot recently.

So today's weather reminded me of those autumn days at Gordon. For the whole ten minutes I was outside. At Gordon there would be 10 minute walks from Drew to Lane Student Center - before they closed off the road and went all posh. Now, as a responsible (ahem), working adult, my leisurely outdoors enjoyment was comprised of the 15 seconds it took me to walk from my front door to my car (no two block walk to the car - oh happy day!), the 45 seconds from my parking spot to my office door, a repeat of that to walk back to the car, the same from the parking spot to the doctor's office door and back again, and then another 30 seconds back at the office. So really, about a minute and a half altogether.

But it was a "fondly remembering" minute and a half there.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Open Caption

Too many captions options are in my head. I can't choose just one. So I'm opening it up to all of you. Wow me with your insight into the feline mind - or just your ability to mock them.

Hi! I'm da wide-mouth Hollis!

Dude - they can see your tonsils from space!

Are they gone yet? Did your big mouth scare them away?

Don't bother me. I'm practicing my cries for when she gets home.

Hey! Cover your mouth when you burp!

MMMWWRRR! I have killed the Great Tiger!! Hear me ROAR!!!!

If I hide back here, maybe she won't eat me too.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

If I Had A Breath...

It’s been a banner bunch of days for me at work as my manic depressive product decided to take both uppers and downers simultaneously so as to plateau into perpetually asininity. I’ve barely had a chance to eat much less breathe since last Wednesday and the end has yet to even take a peak over the horizon and tauntingly wave at me.

So what better than a top eight list (I couldn't come up with 10) of favorite things keeping me one step ahead of the loony bin this week

Stop and Shop Asiago Bagels
You made have noticed that I have a great affection for bagels. Could be the Jersey thing, could be because they fill that carbohydrate comfort-food need, or it could be just because they’re so darn good. When we were at Oxford, my housemate/friend Moyra’s mother Paula Fed Ex’d a bagel from Westchester County, New York so that it would arrive fresh for breakfast the next day. Now that’s commitment. Ask either of them about it today and I’d bet they’d each yet recall the intimate details of Paula’s food-mailing adventures.

It was January before we discovered the joys of George and Davies Ice Cream Shop that, incongruously, had fresh, as-close-as-we-could-get-it New York bagels. Four months without a bagel, people!! Still in therapy for that one. G&D also had fantabulous Bailey’s Irish Cream Ice Cream, long before Hagen Daas ventured in that direction.

In this, George and Davies was our salvation.

As for the asiago bit, I first discovered the delights of asiago cheese – and, weirdly, Nickelback – in Italy, so besides being crisp and tasty, it has special meaning for me. I have gorged on its delights ever since (the cheese, not the band) and finding it melded with a bagel was like manna sent from on high. Originally, I was stuck on the rich, luscious asiago bagels as Bagels 4 U in Springfield where they melted actual asiago cheese on top of the bagel. Sadly, the store has long since discontinued them (the fascists). Then I found out that Wide World of Bagels in Hawthorne had created its own brand of the delicacy. They bake huge dollops of the cheese into the top half of the bagel, but crushingly (though better for my wallet) they only display the delicacy on the weekends. Fortunately, the Super Stop and Shop stores carry a daily stash of asiago bagels. Their modus operendi is to bake the cheese straight into the full bagel, so each half is a connoisseur’s delight. I prefer the extravagance of WWoB personally, but the S&S do for a daily start to my day. When I toast one in the kitchen at my office, the tempting scent wafts down the corridor and sometimes inquiring heads will pop out from offices and cubes like merekats on the African plain.

Finding a Favorite Author - Again
I hemorrhage books. They seep out of my walls, my dresser, my tote bags, my bookcases, my bed – anywhere and everywhere a book could be stored, I’ve already stuck them there. Part of the reason for my overflow is the joy I take in re-reading my favorite novels. One series I really enjoyed in high school was about a girl whose mother is elected the first woman president of the United States written by Ellen Emerson White. The titles are The President’s Daughter, White House Autumn, Long Live the Queen, and (as I only just discovered today) Long May She Reign. Besides being very well-written, engaging, and many other superlative adjectives of praise that I’m too tired to come up with right now, it was the first real glimpse I had into the workings of the White House. This was pre-The West Wing, pre-CNN, pre-a lot of things. It was the 80s after all.

I thought these books would be reprinted when Clinton was elected; what with Chelsea now the First Teenager, it seemed apropos. I even had a sales clerk at the local Barnes and Noble or whatever do a search but to no avail. This was before the Internet and the great white hope that is Amazon.

Now, thanks to author Megan Crane (an author for whom I occasionally have written back cover copy) and her blog, I found out today that the series had been reprinted in trade paperback last year when the fourth book was published. I’m so excited!! It’s like realizing that you just found your junior high-school best friend on Facebook, (which, incidentally, happened to me last week). I ordered up the first and third book from Amazon’s used section (I found my copy of White House Autumn when I moved in August) and I’m having the new, fourth book sent to my local library. I can’t wait to dig back into Meg and her ongoing journey to survive (literally) being the President’s daughter.

Coming Home Every Night to My Own Parking Spot
I think that little piece of heaven speaks for itself.

Spending Two Hours Every Night Writing
Many nights everything I’ve written seriously sucks. But at least it’s something.

The Music of Cowboy Junkies and David Gray
I still don’t have Internet at home – Verizon installation got postponed in lieu of my mom’s CAT scan – so I’m cycling through the itunes songs I’ve uploaded from my own disks or elsewhere. As I boot up the laptop, I keep returning to the Cowboy Junkies and David Gray playlists (they follow one after the other when I list songs by artist). They somehow seem to suit my writing mood; I can tune them out and be supported by them at the same time.

Shakespeare Applies to Everything in Life
I spent most of last week reading and re-reading the same Powerpoint decks, each averaging anywhere from 20-40 pages of slides with notes. Imagine my joy to discover at 1:30pm on Friday that I was reading the wrong deck! Again! Someone had printed out the wrong deck and put it in the right job bag. What made the situation worse was having this revelation delivered to me by one of the most clueless people with whom I’ve ever worked. As I was having a minor breakdown at this total WASTE of time and energy, wallowing in an unfamiliar feeling of blind stupidity brought on by these idiots, I thought of this incredibly apropos Much Ado About Nothing (a personal favorite) quote: What your wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to light.

Continuing proof that Shakespeare really does apply to everything in life.

Listening to 101.9 WRXP Radio Station
What used to be jazz station CD 101.9 is now WRXP, a rock station that does just that – it rocks. I’m worn to the bone by pop music and the endless repetitions of WPLJ. Even my once-beloved rock-oriented WDHA has succumbed to classic rock saturation (which is what I have Q104.3 for) and only rarely (to my ears) spins the new hard rock that drew me to the station in the first place. Since moving, I’ve discovered WRXP and just love it. In the morning, they play music and they have guests who talk about music and I barely understand a third of it, but it’s fascinating and interesting and awesome. Finally I’m hearing regular play of the bands that I’m always hearing about but never hearing play: Kings of Leon, Kaiser Chiefs, The Strokes, Wilco, TV on the Radio, Panic at the Disco, Ryan Adams…the list goes on. Plus there’s a good amount of the oldies I actually want to hear – The Cure, The new Pretenders track (okay, that one is getting quickly worn out), etc. They also play Local Licks – songs from local bands, both famous and not. There’s a morning segment highlighting songs currently rocking the UK. They had Chris Martin of Coldplay in the studio for TWO HOURS one morning last week, spinning his favorite tunes and chatting about music. They play U2 B-sides. Sigh.

Come the afternoon, it sometimes gets a little dodgier and the old tired favorites come out, but I’m still happily streaming it on my computer every day nonetheless.

Realizing I’m Part of a Functional Family – Sort Of
Never fear, it’s not my actual family that’s suddenly flouted convention to become a reasonable, cohesive unit (what fun would that be?) But spend enough time in a small department and those people will become a type of family. Our 5-person department (4 editors and 1 word processor) certainly functions in a familial way. We share highs and lows together, we fight, we annoy each other, we manipulate one another to do the work (only a little and mostly when our boss is gone), and we all lay all our cares and foibles and gripes and pains on our boss. Recently though, we’ve each been spending some time at our sister company, bailing out their own proof/edit department, and never have more repentant children returned to a roost. The rampant dysfunction over there makes our tiny patch seem downright normal – and when has normal ever been used to describe a situation involving me?

Honestly, I don’t know what to do with myself.

But apparently, Ive remembered how to breathe.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Richard Attenborough, I Presume

It is so busy outside my window this morning. After seven years of city living, I’m used to Sunday morning wildlife consisting of laundry patrons wheeling loads down the sidewalk and kids screaming in the schoolyard. Now in suburban land, I can sit at my desk searching for my muse and stare distractedly out my window at the nonstop activity.

These have to be the most industrious squirrels I’ve ever seen – and also some of the plumpest. I blame my landlords for our obese sq
uirrels. They’re constantly putting out birdseed and such for the animals. More than once I’ve seen J in the backyard, dousing the breezeway with kernels of popcorn and the tree stump in the yard is frequently crowned with birds, chipmunks, and squirrels vying for treats. I wonder, is there a Weight Watchers for rodents? It could be a whole new clientele for their nuts and berries division.

And bunnies! Wild bunnies hopping along the sidewalk! We never had that even growing up in Millburn. As I’m not a gardener, I can go “Oohhh, bunnies!” like a three-year-old, completely free of resentment. My friends Jenn and Phil see the perfidious hoppers in their neighborhood and go, “Ugh. Bunnies.” It’s all in your frame of reference people.

The squirrels especially are all over the place. People say that the squirrels
know it’s going to be a rough winter. That’s why they’re bouncing all over the place, maniacally storing up food for the winter. Sadly, I see many of them dead in the road, not quick enough in their endeavors to survive. Honestly, it’s like Faces of Death 25: The Folly of Squirrels out there.

I guess their winters won’t be so bad after all.

There’s a squirrel that lives in the tree outside my boss’ office window. For weeks I’ve seen him flying all over the place – the squirrel, not my boss – literally flying from one tree to the next, branches wobbling beneath his tiny weight as he scurries around with bits and pieces jutting from his mouth. He’s utterly fearless and ferociously intent in his purpose.

Outside my window right now is the Mexican jumping bean sub-species of the North American squirrel. Either that or he’s a bunny in a squirrel’s form. It is Halloween weekend after all. He’s been hop-hop- hopping around the very tiny front lawn covering four to five feet per hop. He’s just leaped onto the mammoth rock in our driveway, perched like a king surveying his domain and taking absolutely no notice of the wooden carved owl my landlord has innocuously placed on the lower end of the rock. Owls? We don’t need no stinkin’ owls!

The birds fly around like I’m living in an aviary. The best of these is the cardinal who only rarely makes an appearance. I haven’t seen him in several months, not since the late summer when I moved into this suburban mania. My mother got me a ceramic cardinal to commemorate our resident scarlet mascot. Cardinals were my Great-Grandmother Pickel’s (whom my mother absolutely adored) favorite bird so there are several manifestations of it around the house. This one is mine and keeps me company during my muse explorations.

Plus, the cats can’t eat it.

Lord, it’s like we need traffic signals out there! Only somehow they managed not to collide with one another. I mean, when was the last time you saw a pair of squirrels run into each other? Can you imagine that conversation?

"Hey man, you knocked my nut out!”
“Yo, you oughtta watch where you’re goin’ man.”
“I’ll show you watchin’! Look at the dent in this nut! Who’s gonna pay for this damage?”
“Oy, stop your chattering! I’ve got nut insurance that’ll cover that.”

Of course these squirrels would have Jersey accents. Else, what’s the point?

What are you shoring up for the winter months? New clothes? A pile of TBR books? (Boy, do I have that covered!) A stacked DVR full of shows you never get to actually watch? How’s the wildlife in your area? Do you need traffic signals? Any nutty conversations in your necks of the woods?

Plenty over here to go around.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Election Debate

Dad-dad: I'm glad that you're voting for McCain now.

K: I never said that.

DD: You're voting for Obama?

K: [cagily] I haven't made up my mind yet.

DD: Well, now Palin's in trouble for firing her brother-in-law

K: Yeah Troopergate. Whatever. She's not the first governor or mayor or president to fire someone for her own self interest. She's just one of the few who got caught.

DD: Did you see her on the debate?

K: Bits and pieces. I try not to watch too many things that will automatically piss me off. I heard she did pretty well, compared with what was expected. But then, those expectations were pretty low.

DD: Yeah, she did OK. Hey, do you watch Saturday Night Live?

K: Yeah.

DD: It's usually on too late for me to watch.

K: Well, yeah, it doesn't start till 11:35.

D: Did you know they did one on Thursday night?

K: Yeah, they're going to be doing them on Thursday nights up till Election Day.

D: Oh yeah? I didn't know that. Have you seen that woman who imitates Palin?

K: Tina Fey, yeah. She's a freaking riot.

DD: She's pretty funny.

K: I think she may do a better version of Palin than Palin does herself.

DD: Oh yeah. Well, I wasn't watching it...

K: [interrupting] Of course not.

DD: ...but Doris who lives downstairs?

K: [cluelessly] Yeah?

DD: Well, she was going to watch it on Thursday and she wondered what time it was on, and I told her 9:30.

K: Yeah, that's when it was scheduled.

DD: Only she went to watch it and turns on her T.V., only it turned out it was on at 10:30.

K: [confused] OK.

DD: How 'bout that. Did you hear that she's now going to be on Saturday Night Live herself?

K: Who? Doris?

DD: [patiently] No. Sarah Palin.

K: I knew they were in negotiations for her to go on and spoof herself a bit. I guess they finally confirmed it.

DD: You knew?

K: Yeah, pretty much.

DD: You really do know everything, huh?

K: Pretty much.

DD: [laughing]

K: [laughing because he's laughing]

DD: [still laughing] Touch

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Final Diagnosis

circumlocution \sir-kuhm-loh-KYOO-shuhn\, noun:
The use of many words to express an idea that might be expressed by few; indirect or roundabout language.

Finally - a term for my condition!

I knew there had to be a diagnosis for me out there somewhere.

Besides nutter.

And goddess of all I survey.

Because those are just too obvious.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Metaphorically Speaking

Every year, English teachers from across the country compile and submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphor found in high school students essays. Here below for your guffawing pleasure is a list of the top 25.

They better as you go on.

No doubt I came up with equally unintentionally hysterical verbiage in my time. Those poor kids were probably so earnest thinking they were crafting the greatest thing since Hemingway. I can actually feel the intensity behind some of these efforts.
That did not stop me from laughing into a wheezing state as I read them. And on some of them, the tongue-in-cheek, smart ass attitude comes through loud and clear. These are crazy awesome funny.

Poor fools. They keep on the windy side of care.

My favorites? Three, six, eight, fourteen, sixteen, seventeen, nineteen is priceless, twenty-two is awesome, twenty-four came straight from the Cohen brothers oeuvre, I'm sure.

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master®.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free®.

3. He spoke with wisdom that only comes from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of e. coli, and he was room temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty® bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and JEOPARDY! comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other
from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But, unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

What are your favorites? Any you've heard yourself that you'd like to share?

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I will always remember 2002 as a Very Bad Year. Not the entire year - January to May rocked the house. I had a great job as promotion manager at Bantam Dell Publishers, a division of Random House in NYC, that I loved. I was enjoying my single late 20s in the city and, most especially fabulous, I took myself to Italy that April.

But then July arrived and I entered an extended period of unemployment, heartache, drama, and woe.

Ever since, I have looked back at that year as a watershed. I have railed against the Lord for those events and many that followed. I have begged to know why my life and plans alone were sacrificed for family needs, why (when I finally got my current job) I had been relegated to an uneventful job where my training and experience had no place to flourish, why I was continually blocked from changing my circumstances professionally, why I wasn't allowed to go back to the publishing industry I loved, why I had a job but no longer a career. Why, why, why.

This morning, as I was again late for work due to - stuff - I was hanging up my cell phone after alerting my boss to my delay and found myself marveling (not for the first time) at my good fortune. Had I managed to shift from the creative side of my agency to the account side (as I had endeavored to due two years ago in an effort to re-enable my career), I'm certain I would have been fired long ago for absenteeism or continued lateness or some other (probably valid) reason caused by the erratic life I've had this year with my mother's long-term illness and hospitalization. But my boss has been unbelievably supportive, allowing me to make up time and working with my erratic schedule whenever possible, and she and my colleagues have repeatedly pitched in to cover my account when I could not.

Then today, I read that Random House has been hemorrhaging big name authors lately. It's been having trouble for some time, evidenced most greatly when
parent company Bertelsmann's CEO was ousted last year. Now RH has lost several recognizable names, two of whom (Iris Johansen and Tami Hoag) were directly managed by Bantam Dell. Big time authors. Besides being a longtime reader of these two authors, I had also worked on book campaigns for both of them - both hardcover and mass-market books - while employed at Bantam Dell.

And I thought: Oh. Crap.

After reading that news update this morning, my brain quickly flipped through the last six years. I could see how loosing my job at Bantam Dell in 2002, while devastating, was infinitely better than being there
(or somewhere else in publishing) today and facing the current marketplace, especially considering our national economic meltdown. Instead, I have 5 years invested in my current company, the longest I ever been at a job in my whole life. I'm pulling down a higher salary (however limiting) than anything I could have maintained in publishing (finances in the publishing world are typically about 30% below other industries), which is especially helpful now that I'm supporting my mother. And while there will be shocks felt everywhere from these economy issues, here at least, there's less immediate fear of job loss. For now.

During those six years, I had to believe that the Lord had a plan for it all. How could I be a good Christian if I didn't? There had to be a reason for my suffering and sacrifice, a purpose I simply could not see but that might someday be revealed to me. I knew the lingo. I got the theology. I mouthed the platitudes. I had to be patient. I had to wait.

I really suck at patience and waiting.

It's much harder to believe in the dark emptiness of an aching night filled with pain. I still railed. I still begged. I cultivated festering anger and dissatisfaction. And that 's not all in the past tense. But in that revelatory moment this morning, I could see how the Lord worked through these trials and personal losses to set me up for what's happening now. My heart might still yearn for things lost that I valued so greatly, but I could now see and be grateful for His unfathomable, far-flung vision so massively greater than my own.

Well, maybe not too grateful.

I could feel Him smiling at me this morning, that gentle, knowing look when a recalcitrant child finally gets it. I could hear Him in my head offering a mild rebuke with a slightly taunting "See?" (though I'm betting the taunting aspect came more from my own inner voice than a holy discourse with my creator.) To which I, of course, responded in my normal, humble, repentant (ahem) way -


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Autumnal Hiatus

Lately I've either been dug in deep...

Been bumping into things all over the place...

Or have just been hiding away from the world best I can.

But one way or ano
ther, I'll be back here soon to continue to wow you all with various pearls of wisdom, ranting, and hilarity.

Occasionally, all at the same time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Remember This Day

I remember this day. I remember it every year. I remember it every day. I remember it when I don't even realize that I"m remembering it.

I remember the sky, so very blue, so beautiful and clear. I remember the fast clip down the hall to my manager Carolyn's office. I remember her phone ringing as I entered and turned on her television. I remember the slow gather behind me as more co-workers filtered in. I remember the updates, the repeats, the shared shock. I remember seeing the North Tower tilt and saying "Guys? Guys?! Is the tower tilting?" and their response, "No, it's the camera that's tilted." I remember watching the camera right itself. I remember the plumes of smoke. I remember the shock of the second plane hitting the South Tower. I remember seeing that fireball live. I remember the next time the tower tilted. I remember that it wasn't the camera that time. I remember that my supervisor Sarah cried.

I remember the fear that NYC landmarks were under attack. I remember the strong voice of my vice-president directing us to leave. I remember hearing that the bridges and tunnels were closed. I remember the few e-mails and voice- mails that got through before communications broke down. I remember standing outside my office on 42nd Street. I remember Annette saying, "Come with us." I remember Sarah making sure I had a place to go.

I remember the surreal trek cross-town to Second Avenue. I remember feeling like I was on a movie set. I remember food carts with radios blaring as we crossed Madison Avenue. I remember the cell phones not working.

I remember the long downtown stretch of Park Avenue. I remember the glimpse of the pummel of smoke at its far end.

I remember being hungry. I remember stores being closed. I remember crowding into a corner pizzeria. I remember the first bite of hot and fresh pizza.

I remember saying that at least the planes were empty.

I remember having to be told that there were passengers on those planes.

I remember walking back cross-town from Second Avenue to Tenth Avenue to reach the ferry. I remember the closed stores - stores that are never closed - McDonalds, Duane Reede, CVS. I remember being thirsty.

I remember the quiet.

I remember the lines of people waiting for the ferry stretching for 10 or 20 blocks in either direction.

I remember the clothes I was wearing.

I remember trekking back to Second Avenue to spend the night at Annette's. I remember buying food and wine later that night. I remember finally reaching my family on the phone. I remember waking up throughout the night. I remember getting a foot cramp and pushing my foot against the wall to relieve it, hoping I wouldn't wake Annette up.

I remember voices outside the window early in the morning. I remember hearing them speak about giving blood and volunteering. I remember walking to the Path Station at 34th street.

I remember it still being so quiet.

I remember trying to find the right bus at Hoboken Station. I remember an obnoxious, unhelpful bus driver. I remember searching each street as we got into Weehawken, afraid I would miss the stop, unfamiliar with that part of town. I remember getting off too early. I remember more walking. I remember finally getting home. I remember seeing my cats and flopping on my bed. I remember my roommate being home and safe.

I remember the many phone messages from across the country. I remember returning calls. I remember the relief in the voices of everyone I called. I remember being afraid to turn off the television.

I remember going back to work on September 13th.

I remember my father telling me of our friends lost on United 93.

I remember the RISE UP billboard on the helix coming up from the Lincoln Tunnel. I remember hearing Bruce Springsteen's song in my head every time I looked on it. I remember latching on to that every day. I remember the Empire State Building lit up in red, white, and blue. I remember the day it went back to its regular gold. I remember that I couldn't think of what it was meant to represent; I'd become so accustomed to red, white, and blue, I no longer recognized normal.

I remember when the billboard went back to advertisements.

I remember, that February, climbing the stairs from the subway at Ground Zero for the first time and not knowing where to go. I remember all my landmarks being gone. I remember the Red Cross tent. I remember the firefighters from the House of Pain. I remember the laughter. I remember the camaraderie.

I remember crunching debris beneath my feet as a worker lead me, my college roommate Kerry and her husband Matt, an OSHA inspector, onto the sight. I remember trying to visualize the place where I'd work, trying to see Century 21, the Borders bookstore whose opening I'd attended, or Tall Ships pub, and failing. I remember gazing on the empty hole where my career had begun, where my first professional milestones were made, and feeling deeply bereft.

I remember the deep ache in my bones and my feet from the work serving the workers.

I remember listening to radio on every anniversary. I remember hearing the listing of names on the radio as I drove to work. I remember the bells, the moments of silence, the tears, the strength, the continuation of life. I remember watching the live feeds on the Internet. I remember doing this every year.

I listen to them now, recalling these memories. A recitation of names that closes my throat. A memorial of sacrifice.

I've heard it said that New York doesn't allow survivors to forget 9/11.

Thank God for that.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Movie Mondays - Lust, Caution

Welcome to the premiere of Movie Mondays.

I figure the title is self-explanatory enough.

I'm a movie buff. I may not be able to deconstruct Kurosawa with a bunch of film geeks, but I do enjoy a better-than-average affinity for the entertainment industry. I don't get to the movie theater all that much any more so when I do, I try to choose the films I can't stand to miss (The Dark Knight) or update my Netflix queue with other, more obscure titles I want to see due to positive buzz (The Lives of Others). The does mean that I can be a few months behind things but that's just the beauty of Kiersten timing.

My relationship with Netflix has pretty much stalled in recent months as life had knocked me upside the head with Other Things that needed attention. But one rare (and slightly pathetic) Friday night when I was home alone with nothing to do (or, rather, too much I should be doing but wasn't) I picked up Lust, Caution from the local video shop (will we ever call it the DVD store? The Blue Ray Store? Hmm.)

Caveat: This is not a movie for anyone with a conservative bent. It is very sexually graphic.

Lust, Caution is director Ang Lee's most recent film and his first in many years (or ever?) in Chinese. It tells the story of Japanese-occupied Shanghai in World War II and a young woman, Mai Tai Tai, who goes undercover to seduce and set up Mr. Yee, a Japanese collaborator who is rather highly placed in the secret service.

So basically a Very Bad Dude.

Mai's mission is to set Mr. Yee up for
assassination but the more time she spends with him, the more conflicted her loyalties become. Will she betray him or will she turn on her resistance comrades to save his life? It evokes shades of Black Book, Paul Verhoeven's racy thriller during which a Jewish woman goes undercover in a Nazi command center as an Aryan secretary and eventual mistress to a high-ranking Nazi officer.

Further synopsis for Lust, Caution can be found on IMDB. Have at it.

Ang Lee shoots beautiful films - or rather his DOP does - but the end result is helmed by Lee. I still don't think he was the right man to direct Sense and Sensibility - I lay its pacing flaws firmly at his feet - and I wouldn't be nearly so fond of that film without Emma Thompson and Alan Richman, but it is beautifully shot and crafted. Brokeback Mountain is likewise stunning in its construction and Lee's lyrical sense of place, evidenced again in Lust, Caution, is breathtaking. (This doesn't however, translate to the beautiful mess that was The Hulk.)

Lust, Caution
itself resonates with a visual feast of colors and culture whose changing hues illuminate the changing circumstances of the characters. I particularly enjoyed the mahjong scenes with the high-ranking wives and how vicious and catty they could be under the veneer of social discourse, gossip, and game playing. A gathering of lazy lionesses sharpening their claws in a gilded cage.

But I never really engaged with this film and I think the fault lies predominantly on its leading lady.

Wei Tang, the actress playing Mai Tai Tai, gives a wooden performance that fluctuates between overblown dramatic distress and a blank slate expression with the occasional seductive gaze or sexually contorted facial features thrown in for irregular variety. She is our window into this world, our heroine, yet she had as much charisma as a dandelion. Except I like dandelions. She's beautiful, no question, and the clothes and fashions displayed on her slight figure are stunning period pieces, but outside of being a particularly pleasant clothes pole - nothing.

But what really ticked me off, and what has kept this film kicking around my head for weeks, is Mai Tai Tai's stupid, ridiculous, totally asinine choice at the end. It was somewhere around one AM when I finished the film and I literally said to (OK, yelled at) the television "That's it? You stupid twit!"

For a seven-carat, canary diamond ring, she betrays everything - AND THEY ALL DIE. What is the deal with that? She didn't even get to keep the ring!

The resistance fighters' plan was to kill Mr. Yee as he and Mai Tai Tai visit the jewelers to collect the ring he'd had commissioned for her. Overcome by her lover's presentation of this ring and its accompanying silent declaration of love, she confesses all with the single admonition "Run". At least in Black Book, the Nazi lover was honorable, working from inside the beast to aid its victims and countermand the worst of the power abuses by his colleagues. Ergo, the heroine's eventual love and consequential switching of loyalties make sense. Plus, she still doesn't betray her comrades. Here, Mr. Yee has virtually no redeeming qualities and displays some of his most vicious tendencies in the "love" scenes. But Mai is so overcome by her feelings for him that she betrays everything -and everyone - else.


It doesn't help that Mai's crack group of neophyte resistance fighters never show up for the actual killing. If there's one thing I hate, it's a delayed assassination. (To be fair, it's implied that they were rounded up by secret police before they could go through with it, but that just makes her choice even more ridiculous as she could have escaped before the police came for her.) Then the fool girl GOES HOME!! Because they'd never think to look for her there. (Did I mention she's living in Mr. Yee's house as a guest of his wife? Bloody brilliant.)

Next thing we know, Mai and all her friends and compatriots are being shot in the head.


Sure, we can extrapolate that the revelation of Mr. Yee's duplicity will lead to his own denouement, but Ang Lee chooses to leave that determination up to the viewer. Now I'm not opposed to an ambiguous conclusion, especially when it stimulates thought and conversation. I mulled over the layers of meaning in the conclusion to the movie The Prestige for days and talked it out with several people because my brain was just rocked. The revelations at the end changed my perspectives on all that had come before in the film and the more I thought about it, the more fascinated I became. It's brilliant, provocative storytelling.

This isn't.

I'm sure that Ang Lee has themes embedded in all of this that I'm just failing to fully realize, but that's because I cannot get past this girl's decisions. I have no sympathy for a heroine who not only can't bloody well keep herself alive with some fairly basic self-preservation - like Run Away! Or Don't Warn the Mark! - but her actions and frankly, weaknesses, kills all her friends along with her. Unforgivable. And worse, nothing overtly is gained from this "sacrifice". At least in something like 300 - extreme, cartoon-like (oops, sorry, graphic novel-like) execution aside - there was purpose and an overall triumph from their sacrifice (and the hot, sweaty, totally cut male bodies didn't hurt either.)

I love complex heroines. Frankly, I prefer them, and I suppose that Mai's weakness and ultimate failure can be seen as the complexity of her character; a woman with the strength and ability to subjugate herself to her role as femme fatale to achieve (in her eyes) a noble aim loses everything by succumbing to the magnetism and allure of her victim. But I'm still left with an overall response of You stupid twit.

I suspect, in the end, that may reveal more about me than it does the film.

Grade: D

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Two of a Kind

K: So, How you doin'?

Dad-Dad: OK. How are YOU doing?

K: OK. Why?

DD: Your aunt's being trying to reach you. She kept calling all day Labor Day. She was here and must have called you half a dozen times.

K: We were at a barbecue.

DD: Oh.

K: I left my phone in the car.

DD: Uh huh.

K: [sigh] I talked to her yesterday.

DD: Yeah? Well that's good. So, everything's okay?

K: Pretty much. My knee went out this morning. Totally random.

DD: Oh, no. Mine does that too. I can't turn left easily anymore without stumbling.

K: Well, if you used your cane, it would probably help with that.

DD: Cane slows me down.

K: It might be worth it to give your knee some support. Maybe it takes an extra few minutes to get down the hall, but your knee will thank you for it.

DD: Ah, it hurts my arm to use it.

K: Your arm will get used to it. You need to build up the muscle. Go down to the gym and lift some weights.

DD: Hey, I do 30 minutes on the treadmill three times a week.

K: Yeah, but that's your legs, not your arms.

DD: Oh. I do the chest press for them.

K: That's good. What about bicep curls?

DD: Oh, no. I can't do those.

K: OK, what about arm lifts? Lifting your arms up above your head?

DD: Oh, yeah, I do those when I'm sleeping.

K: [pause while visualizing] You do arm lifts in your sleep?

DD: Yeah.

K: [pause again] How do you know you do them if you're asleep?

DD: 'Cause I dream of it.

K: Just cause you're dreaming it doesn't mean you're actually doing it.

DD: Yeah it does.

K: How do you know? You're asleep!

DD: 'Cause I'm tired when I wake up.

K: [incredulously] From doing arm lifts?

DD: Oh yeah. Last week I dreamt I was in the Boston Marathon and I could hardly get out of bed.

K: laughing

DD: I came in second.

K: [still laughing] Who came in first?

DD: A black woman from Jamaica.

[Two-minute pause while both laugh]

DD: Hey, were you driving a truck the other day?

K: A truck?

DD: Yeah. A sand truck.

K: No. Why?

DD: A truck turned over up there speeding up the on ramp. Dumped sand all over the ramp.

K: Where?

DD: Up there. Warick, Wardwick, Walwick...

K: Waldwick?

DD: Yeah.

K: That's where I live, but I didn't hear of anything. There was a truck overturned on the ramp from 287N to 80W yesterday, but that was it.

DD: You weren't driving a sand truck?

Wasn't me, no sir, no way.

DD: You sure?

K: Pretty sure. See? I'm not the only one who does 90 mph on the on-ramps.

DD: Guess not.

K: We have a club.

DD: [laughing] Oh yeah?

K: We meet once a month and have races on on-ramps.

DD: How 'bout that.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Trip Back in Time

Yesterday, I went back in time. Did you see a swoosh streak by you? That was me throttling back to last Friday where I completed the post I had begun the first time I was in last Friday.

However, in all my Polish glory, I didn't realize that the time stamp would, of course, be August 15th and would, ergo, post that same date on the site. In fact, I clicked on "Publish Post" no less than three times as I tried to figure out why there was nothing new showing on the site until I thought, "scroll down, fool" (yes, I admonish myself when I talk to - er - myself. Just keepin' it real.) There it was exactly where - and when - it should be.

I guess my flux capacitor was out of flux.

Back in the here and now, don't forget to scroll down to read the newest post. From last week.

It all makes sense if you're me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

In With the New

It's Couch Day at Casa Kiersten and I could not, could not, COULD NOT be more excited.

This past week, I've taken to turning on the kitchen light (there is no overhead light in my living room) so I can stand in the doorway to the living room and gaze at the empty space that will soon house my beautiful new brick red couch and arm chair.

Because I look good in red. That's why.

At times, I've wandered the room, patting the soon-to-be-hidden walls as I promise them excellent decorative enhancement. I've even just st00d in the middle of the room, surveying the unpacked videos and DVDs, the nearly cleared off top of my grandmother's coffee table, with a nowhere near faint sense of pleasure and anticipation. I've envisioned the exact parameters, surveyed the terrain, measured and remeasured to my heart's content. I've planned entire cat-repellent campaigns to avoid any arduous injury to my new decor, sent cell phone photos far and wide touting my furnishing coup and, I confess, spun around once or twice in glee.

Sigh. It's so satisfying becoming an adult. And it only took me 36 years.

How 'bout that.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Am I Wearing a Sign?

There are certain things that you expect to see if you spend a lot of time in Manhattan, or any major city really. Excessively pierced and/or tattooed individuals. Homeless people. Street theater and/or musicians. Rats the size of a small tiger. Flamboyantly dressed women or men pretending to be women. Women working to be treated like men. Tourists. The sidewalk preacher who may also a candidate for the loony bin. The Naked Cowboy. Activists passing out flyers. A fake baked chickie, her skin a dark-orange mess, walking like she was all that and a bag of Sun In. A professionally dressed couple macking on each other outside the World Trade Center at high noon. (Oh the stories I spun on that one!)

Public Urination.

For a while there during my tenure in NYC, I felt like I was wearing a sign that said "Please make my day and pee in front of me," because I seemed to be running into that a lot . Perhaps not surprisingly, these events occurred in and around the W. 4th Street subway station on the Blue Line as I was shuffling from work to classes at NYU. The Disneyfied area of midtown would never suffer such high jinx.

The first time was on a stormy day when the steps were slick with torrential rains. A clearly homeless woman had come down the first flight of stairs into the subway station to the covered midway landing and promptly squatted down and released a likewise torrential stream of urine. Just as I was coming up to that same landing from the subway.


Months later, walking up 4th Street towards NYU, a man drunkenly offered profuse apologies as I crossed the street and walked eastwards. "Sorry Miss, so sorry, sorry" he slurred at me. I couldn't figure out why he was apologizing to me until I notice that he was peeing against the side and bumper of a car right there in the middle of the street. I remember disgustedly saying to him "If you're sorry, don't do it," and walking swiftly by.

I mean, you kind of shrug that off as the price of doing business in the big city. But I haven't worked in the city for several years now and despite living in the fairly urban Weehawken for seven years, never had anything like that happen on this side of the Hudson River.

Until yesterday.

My new apartment is in a two-story house made up of two buildings that are connected by a second story bridge. The second building (not mine) houses the garage on the first floor and another apartment above it. It's actually quite and intriguing set up. Underneath the bridge and between the two buildings is an open breezeway connecting the front driveway to the backyard.

My landlord' s husband J looks like a tall Buddy Hackett. He's good natured and pleasant, just a tad odd and a bit eccentric. He seems to be around all the time, wandering around presumably doing upkeep things eschewing the backyard to take his rest in camp chairs set just outside our shared door in the breezeway.

Yesterday evening, I was out back in my own camp chair, enjoying the nearly forgotten pleasure of a summer evening in a backyard. My mosquito lamp was burning while I worked on my laptop in the company of a bottle of Vitamin water. I could hear J from time to time in the breezeway and wasn't surprised when he came through to the back yard. At the last minute, I decided not to acknowledge him as I knew he'd come over and jaw for a while and I wanted to keep writing while I was on a roll.

A few seconds later, I heard a faint buzz-like sound and looked around for any bees that might be swarming around. What I saw was J peeing into the weeds against the back wall of the garage. I confess I gaped for a minute, stupefied at what I was seeing. And then my first thought was "I am not telling my mother about this."

Apparently my new suburban landlord' s husband hasn't quite grasped the idea that there are "other people" living on the property now.

I'm choosing to believe that he didn't know I was there. I certainly didn't announce myself figuring it would only make the situation worse. I know that he likes to enjoy a beer or two once he gets back from his office cleaning job on Sunday, and I figure that probably impaired his awareness.

But come on!!!

What is the deal with people publicly peeing in front of me? Do I need to hang an occupancy sign in the back yard? A his and hers delineation line? A picture of a urinal with a line through it?

Maybe a placard reading "To Pee or Not to Pee - There is NO QUESTION!"

Friday, August 15, 2008

Grammar Angels

I've had an odd week filled with conversations regarding words. As well as with words, which is helpful as wordless conversations, while fun, are much more difficult to carry on when not face to face.

It started Tuesday at my writing critique group when one of my partners commented that I use very old words. She'd industriously looked up the etymology of several words in my chapter and noted that they'd been around for several hundred years. I believe the example she gave was my use of the word shod. Her wise insight was that I should better consider my audience, that they may not share my appreciation of having to look up words when reading a novel. Her less helpful comment was that I might try writing more common.

I did not say "Have you met me?"

Such a comment isn't entirely new; I once had a colleague
(fondly, I'm sure) say that she needed to consult a dictionary in order to hold a conversation with me. But I'm not apologetic for it either. I personally enjoy keeping lists of the words I discover while reading for which I don't already know the meanings. I may not always get around to looking them up, but I've scraps of paper all over the place filled with driblets to of these days.

That's not everyone's cup of tea. Many would rather just dive into an enjoyable story and escape for a while. Lord knows I've been there too. But the books and stories I return to are the ones that challenge and engage me.

That same week, while waiting for an office birthday party to commence, my senior writer Doug asked me if the proper phrase was "a happy medium" or "a happy median". I said it's the first and, as he thought otherwise, there went 10 minutes of us in fervent debate about the matter. After which there was cake and laughter and smart-mouthed talk, because that's the kind of people I work with - for the most part.

About half an hour after returning to my office, pleasantly filled with the ooey gooey chocolate center of an ice-cream cake, there was Doug again. "OK, I've got one for you. Is it 'chomping at the bit' or 'champing at the bit'?" I said chomping and there went another 15 minutes of debate complete with Doug visualizing his point with an - um - evocative imitation of a horse chomping on its bit complete with foot stamping. It also
included a lively discussion of past tense, present tense, past present tense and so on. (BTW - Webster's backs me up in both instances.)

This is our idea of fun.

The phrase "get a life" comes to mind now.

Although the chomping imitation was not to be missed.

Then it was my turn.

"Is it 'You have another thing coming' or 'You have another think coming'?" This is one of my favorites. Doug,
like most people, said "thing coming." But no one would say "if you thing I'm going to do this, you have another thing coming." No, it's "if you think I'm going to do this, you have another think coming." (Though Judas Priest would disagree with me.) People never say it that way, though, because it doesn't feel natural, however accurate it may be. It's just one of those grammar things that trips us up if we think about it for too long.

As, apparently, I do.

I like thinking about and exploring these things. I don't want to write more common and, frankly, I don't think I should have to. If you have to look up the words I'm using, well then I'm doing my job so
buck up baby. I want to be challenging and provocative and to raise the bar in the conversational gauntlet. Too much of our lives are abbreviated, too many of our interactions are broken down to slang and text-acceptable tidbits. Too many times we don't think about what we're saying (though I never do that, oh no, not me.)

It's all quite wonky.

Pick up the glove and accept the challenge. Be adventurous. Buy a dictionary.

Or the Microsoft Word Thesaurus works in a pinch too.

The day after these grammatical deliberations I found myself using the phrase "chomping at the bit" in an e-mail. Of course, all I could see was Doug and his oh-so-special, horse-like demonstration. Damned if I didn't go back and change it (erroneously) to champing. Suddenly I had this grammar angel on my shoulder making me over think the smallest point till my brain wanted to weep.

I still can't figure out if it's my better or darker angel.

Guess I'll just have to settle for a happy medium.