Saturday, August 8, 2009

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Browsing the $1.00 bin in the courtyard of our neighborhood used bookstore:

Rumsfeld: A Personal Portrait
Fidelity's World: The Secret Life & Public Power of the Mutual Fund Giant
Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America
From This Day Forward by Cokie & Steve Roberts
And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts

You know. Just your average bunch of casual readers.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The first day of the rest of my life and other graduation speech titles

You know all the corny stuff that got written in your yearbook or was said from the gymnasium stage by the person all the teachers said would "go far?"

Those pep talks you got from people telling you that there was nothing you couldn't accomplish with enough hard work and dedication?

Study hard.

Work hard.

Pay your dues.

Do all this and you'll go far. You'll find success and happiness and a 401K.

Tonight I kind of feel that way because I made a leap of faith. A leap of faith that I made because, really I think for the first time, I allowed myself to see that I have worked hard. I have paid my dues.

A leap of faith that will likely cause me a lot more grief and frustration before I get to see those new horizons we heard about in all those graduation speeches.

But I'd be lying if I didn't feel some glimmer of hope for myself right now.

I know. It sounds really, really selfish.

But for the next few hours I'm going to say that's okay.

blog block.

I was discussing my serious case of blog block with one of my three readers today.

During the course of our conversation she mentioned that she wouldn't mind having a new nickname here on the blog.

So, here's what I'm thinking.

The individual in question has truly become one of my favorite folks in the world. Contrary to what many think, this is actually not the easiest of tasks. But she meets all my big requirements.

She's incredibly funny. Smart funny. Like references to historical figures funny.

She says what's on her mind. Sometimes this is one of those descriptions people use when trying to speak nicely about someone who is completely obnoxious or often inappropriate.

Or, frankly, elderly.

She is none of these things. She's a realist who doesn't wait for the train to leave the tracks before she hollers out. She tries to get folks to check the train out before it leaves the station.

And she has never hesitated, no matter what is going on in her own patch of grass, to pull out the 5-cent psychiatry booth to lend an ear to a friend.

All this is why, from this post forward, she will be known as VanPelt.

I'll leave the tags on this one in case you want to return it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Book lust.

I can't wait to get my hands on this book.

The American Painter Emma Dial is writer Samantha Peale's debut novel about an artist's assistant and it sounds - to quote the great Seth Rudetsky - ah-mah-zing (1).

Better, I got to hear Peale interviewed on PRI's Studio 360 and not only does she sound smart and interesting and completely like someone you'd like to have drinks with, she almost completely washed away the foul aftertaste of Andersen's visit with my nemesis (2).

And if you know me you know that this beyond brilliant cover doesn't hurt either.

How cool am I going to look sitting somewhere reading this (3)?

1. Hey, I don't go that gay for just anyone. I am very excited for this book.
2. And check out Peale's headshot. That, my friend, is definition of fan-freaking-tastic.
3. Reminder to self: The American Painter Emma Dial is a book, not a magic trick.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sleepless. No Seattle.

For some reason I've been waking up at 4am for about a week now.

This is annoying.

Okay. I know the reason. I've been waking up at 4am so that I can fight with myself and second guess the decision that I know is the right thing for me to do.

But as anyone knows who has stared at the ceiling with one eye and watched the clock tick slowly forward with the other, it's amazing how much you can heap on yourself at 4am.

In an effort to tame these early hours into something resembling more productivity than guilt, I've started to think of story openings. I owe a big thank you to Miranda July for kicking something loose in that side of my brain.

Perhaps, if this persists, I'll start getting out of bed and curling up with the laptop and a cup of tea and getting some of this stuff down.

But for now, I think Finkelstein (1) and I will keep up our early morning staring contest.

I have a pretty good win record going.

Mostly because she keeps falling asleep.

Here's a little something for my three readers:

Peter did not make a scene in the restaurant.

He might have. He probably should have. But he did not.

When he sat down at the bar, a bar he normally would have been more than 200-miles away from (had Maureen not insisted on heading to the cabin a week before he would be finished teaching classes the two of them would have traveled together, taking a long and looping route up the coast instead of this dreary solo shot up the I95), he saw Kenneth immediately.

His brother-in-law was sitting in a booth, his arm looped around the shoulders of a tiny redhead who was not his sister-in-law.

And that was one thing. A transgression. A violation of his wedding vows. A violation that Peter had committed on two separate occasions in the cramped office of a colleague in the art history department.

But, across from Kenneth and the redhead, were two young boys. Two loud, round, redheaded boys who kept asking questions. Questions that started with the word "dad."

"Dad, can we get dessert?"

"Dad, I can't finish this. Do I hafta finish it?"

"Dad, do you have to go on another work trip next week? 'Cause I have a game and everybody is going to be there."

So now Peter stood in the cold, leaning against his ancient blue Toyota, trying to figure out why he did not make a scene and cursing Maureen for being so damn impatient."

1. Finkelstein is one of the many nicknames that we have given our dog. Finkelstein is short for Frederica F. Finkelstein.