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.