Notes From The Road.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicholas_t/2789113344/in/photolist-5fsWe7-diugKp-o6qxW-ehDioj-8YPQQ4-9QPp9-6Mdx3F-4Mxiuu-4mAQff-cadkCj-cT5RAY-4xSKzt-5LDsRZ-64W8kL-7TYWbb-9LE1CS-nGwmYu-7dTyrL-mWzQjZ-bYfPzS-djCqm-f1Eu12-89ytzh-qeKBw8-avAjXu-fW3cSS-FNWa4-g6K4Z-5APGkK-5fzZ5b-ao19br-5HMTxE-4hJkMi-ef8Fhz-fxZTv-7hMxyh-ddSJg-8XLpCR-4oLyv5-5GsUpX-dd9GfR-mGnJWn-8tsqTm-81JA6w-aqtYNJ-k3D94x-fcbKFp-7RTdXx-4r96YV-y994Y
Flickr user Nicholas A. Tonelll

Today I drove 40 miles south, then a few hours later I drove back. I saw at least ten cars pulled over, but only got a look at four of the drivers. Two black; two white. I wish I could say I believed there’s a chance the six drivers I didn’t see were white.

Christians, if you’re going to drive like assholes, maybe don’t have those WWJD bumper stickers or icthyses placed prominently on the rear end of your car which I will undoubtedly see as you cut me off.

Brokeass white people with Romney Ryan stickers left over from ’12, one of these days I really will rear end one of you. Know how I know your asses are broke? You drive Jeeps and Ford Escapes from ’89 that almost look lacy for all the rust. Your cars make more noise than semis, and not cos you installed a muffler enhancer. And at least half of you drive around shirtless.

Anybody reading this have any experience with 4th graders and pickup lines? Asking for a friend.

Thinking about law school and getting a PhD with equal lather lately. Anybody know the starting salary for a social justice lawyer? HAHAHA.

Sometimes, I eat onions then I smell really bad.

Nobody in my family loves the Green Ralph Lauren cologne the way I do. Anybody who wears that wanna follow me around so I can inhale deeply your delicious odor like a sweaty perv?

My student’s incomplete is due on Monday. I will turn in his grade on Friday. Don’t know why I feel so anxious about whether or not he will actually turn in his incomplete. Maybe it’s related to the fact that I haven’t been brave enough to view my scores on rate my professor dot com.

Finally, I’m 34. It’d be really unfair if I were really perimenopausal. If, in fact, I am, I am looking for a gynecological surgeon for some pro bono work on my uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. You may keep them for study. Say you found them in a dumpster. I don’t care.

21 Lies I Tell Myself to Avoid Writing

From Flickr user emdot
From Flickr user emdot

1. You really should check in on Facebook.

2. You really, really suck.

3. You need coffee first.

4. You can do it later.

5. Oh my god your ass is smaller! Peer at yourself in the pre-dawn window for a time. Honest to god, it’s smaller than it was yesterday.

6. It is a good day to put a big chunk of something in the crock pot, but first you’ll need a recipe.

7. You don’t have to write today. You wrote yesterday and the day before. It won’t kill you to miss one day. You deserve it.

8. That e-mail cannot wait, you must answer it.

9. Everyone hates you and you should probably just give up.

10. Writing is a waste of time. You should quit now while you’re still young enough to become an expert on something else.

11. Instagram needs an update. You haven’t photographed anything recently, now would be a good time.

12. Have I mentioned how awful you are?

13. The dishes need doing, now.

14. You can still do it later.

15. Writing is boring.

16. You are ugly, you should go contemplate that fact in front of a mirror.

17. You really need to take out the trash.

18. You need to pack Child’s lunch. This second. You will forget to do it later, and she won’t dream of reminding you.

19. You should take a quick second to check your blog stats.

20. You don’t tweet enough, all the best writey people tweet often. You need to go analyze their tweeting and promise yourself you’ll do better.

21. You need to have a sandwich this instant. If you don’t, you’ll get a cramp when you run later.

Open Letter to Vanity Publishing Crowd

From Flickr User Ian Wilson

Dear Book Writer,

What is your profession?  I’m dying to know.  I will show up there and take over your clients.  I will prescribe their pills or write their briefs or cobble their soles.  I can slice and stitch with the best of them; after all, I took Home Ec.

Or maybe I should show up at your workplace and insist that you show me what you have learned to do over years, what you have paid to learn, and how to do it, free of charge?  Or maybe I should laugh at you when you say that one must diagnose the disease before making the incision?

Here is how we writers become so: We spend years feeling tortured, true or not, and scribbling onto any scrap of paper that’s large enough for a word or two.  We have journals.  We have burned some of them.  We have saved others.  We have many half full, many overfull.  Then we pursued writing-related tasks with vigor, fading into the background in school and work to observe, store up material, notice how people talk and act and are. We have been called odd snobs, different, dangerous, powerful.  We have been taunted and less frequently heralded our “gifts” with the word. Our gift is obsession with the music of language, the ability to tune in.

We have read with quiet abandon.  We have studied the written word, intentionally, osmotically, we find no greater joy than in the annals of another writer’s imagination.  We have allowed others’ voices to inform, infuse our own.  We have studied, studied, and continue to study the story, how it works, when it’s working, when it’s not.  We have made our rookie mistakes in the privacy of our own rooms or in the semiprivacy of our educations, writing workshops, writers’ groups, families, friends, LiveJournals.

We do not insist that these mistakes be proffered publicly. We are not proud of them. We do not hear editors’ rejections or suggestions with scorn for gatekeepers.  We thrive in rejection, we allow it to make us better, we recognize that we may never have success.  We do not write for publication, we write for writing, for self, for art, for work, for pain, for pleasure, for sex.  If we are published, of course we are pleased, but we do not begin with that in mind.  We begin with the word in mind, the story, the sadness, the soul, the voices, the joy around us.

We do not begrudge you your desire to be heard.  But we wish you would stop blabbing so loudly about how unfair the world that does not welcome your scribbling is.  We wish you would remember how you toiled to learn your trade, the one that is not book writing.  We wish you would stop believing that because you can speak you can write.  We wish you would stop thinking of writing as a cash cow.

Please, write.  Please do.  There can never be enough writers.  But before you fire up CreateSpace and start selling your print-on-demand for $24, read.  And read again.  And read until your eyes are dry and shrunken.  Until you’ve read more books than anybody you know.  Then write.  And write long and hard.  Until you’ve logged millions of words, tens of thousands of pages. And once you’ve done these things, you may be surprised how many of those pretentious, self-aggrandizing, gate keeping, nay saying, parade raining editors are willing to reconsider your work.

Love,

A Writer

I Made a Terrible Mistake.

From Flickr User DonkeyHotey (OMG I will die of the clever.)

I am not good at paying attention to politics.

I am annoyed and saddened by the limitations of the scope of the rhetoric.

I am convinced that my vote simply doesn’t matter (though I show up at the polls, just in case), and that rich people are totally in charge of this country, whatever histrionic of republic in which we choose to believe we participate.

And since I’m reasonably certain that unless I get 1% rich (and when I do, boy oh, look out white dudes), I can affect no change, even if I experience wild success in American Letters, I’ll still be a woman, I’ll still be a kooky arty liberal (by appearances, though I am an anarchist/libertarian in my soul), and I would seriously prefer to spend my energy and intellect on more spiritually/culturally rewarding pursuits.

Despite all of this, I could not control myself when the very tippy top of my Facebook News Feed said, “Wanky McWank Pants and 10 other friends like Mitt Romney.”

So I posted the following status update:

So facebook just told me that several of my friends *who will remain unnamed out of respect for their freedom of speech* “liked” Mitt Romney. For a fleeting moment, I considered unfriending every single one of them.

In my mind, I was being flip. I was pointing out the beauty of our illusion of freedom of speech.

When I re-read my status update, I was maybe a little chagrined to realize that, to Romney fans (i.e., humans without critical thinking skills), my status update would be offensive.

But my chagrin was short lived. It was quickly followed by a belly-sinking sense of my own doofus-like state. I should’ve kept my typing fingers still.

I pride myself in staying out of political discussions. I try to maintain a professional attitude and presence in social media. Like to as I might, I do NOT talk smack about people (except for fans of Mitt, apparently), and I do not make personal statements about my relationships, friends and relatives with whose actions/behavior I disagree, or my innermost feelings, dark as they may be.

This Me, of whom you get a sense on my blog, is about 70% persona. People who know me in life can identify the differences between the Me who writes here and the Me who lives in a place and does mundane things like put on socks and go up and down staircases.

I think that any writer would tell you that she inhabits a more perfect self, or a less perfect one, depending on the scenario, when she writes anything.

I think this is why people publish the letters that writers write to people and each other. We are never simply sharing the news. We are always spinning.

This post is supposed to be confessional. I think I lost a “friend” over the facebook status. Based on his ranting, I’m not sure I mind, but I would like to hope that that above-quoted status will be the last thing of a political nature that I personally write on Facebook. Henceforth, I shall only share news articles and comment on other people’s political statuses.

Anybody care to share Facebook rules to live by?

I Don’t Want a Pickle…

Since the song loses something if you haven’t heard it, I invite you to listen now.  You really only need the chorus, so if it’s not your thing, you don’t have to listen long.

It’s by this guy: Arlo Guthrie.

From Flickr user pwbaker

The famous American folksinger, Woody Guthrie, is his dad.  Woody’s work is stellar, and much more earnest than Arlo’s.

Today in the car, Child said, “hey mommy, you wanna hear a song I know?”

It was after she’d demanded I play Regina Spektor’s “Uhmerica,” which Child calls “The OOh song.” She prounounces that Ooh as if she’s getting socked in the gut.  Click the link.  Hear the song.  Good times.

So while I scrolled through tracks and discs, Child sang, “I don’t want a pickle, I just wanna ride on my mooooooootorsickle…”

This is a song that my father sings.

He instilled a fondness for that and for “Alice’s Restaurant” in all four of us kids via the vinyl copy of Alice’s Restaurant that’s probably still swimming around in the clutter at my parents’ house.

God I loved “Alice’s Restaurant.”  Some of my earliest artsy teen memories are of open mic night at the local coffee shop where I’d always ask this hippie guy, the Em Cee, to do his full, 20-minute rendition of the song.

But all of us sing “The Motorcycle Song.” Dad’s rendition is particularly cute. My sibs, both my parents, and now Child.

So I asked her, “Did Pop Pop teach you that?”

She said, “Nah. I just heard it and learned it.”

She sang all of the words perfectly.  I said, “Who did you hear singing it,” hopeful for a moment that there is some kind of neo folk fan movement about which I am not aware because I suck at pop culture.

She said, “You, Grandma, Auntie, Auntie, Uncle Kuppie, Pop Pop.” She said this like some sort of bored, teenage list.  Seven is sassy. You should know that she calls one of her aunts Anty (the Southern pronunciation) and one of her aunts Ahnty (the New England pronunciation).

Aside from the way this exchange tickled me, and aside from the fun Child and I had thinking up words that rhyme with pickle and die, to insert into silly renditions, it occurred to me that Arlo Guthrie is the author of a pretty significant chunk of cultural influence on  my family’s.  I can’t decide if I think that’s awesome or sad.  At this moment, I’m leaning hard on awesome.

What about you–what are your family’s theme songs?

People do Zany Shit on the Internet & Notes from the Cosmos

Child started playing this game, Tapfish, on my first generation Galaxy Tab.

I’m kind of into it, too.  I’m babysitting our two tanks while she visits Grandma this week.

This game is mildly frustrating because the cool stuff costs real money (in the form of fish bucks), but I’m in the middle of an “event” right now where you breed these two special clown fish that the game puts in your tank for free over and over again and you get all these other special clown fish.

There are challenges like raising sea turtles which take two weeks to grow.

And selling multiples of adult fish.

And breeding specific kinds of fish that become available as you ascend the levels.

I’m not really sure what constitutes ascension, it just says once in a while, “congratulations you’re on level X! Have some free coins!  Also a fish buck!”

One of the features is that you can visit other people’s tanks.  If you help them by cleaning or feeding their fish (or reviving their dead fish), you earn coins and experience points.

Sometimes visiting someone else’s tank feels a little like snooping in their drawer of underpants.

We visited this tank last week.

Dirty Screen, yeah, but you get the picture.

And all I can think about is some webcam-furry-antisocial-internet-people romance, where Sally Interwebs made this special tank for Henry Interwebs, and paid real money to get the bride and groom divers, and how sweet Lord, the whole thing strikes me as, well, creepy.  Yes.  Creepy.

And I am an internet dater.

But seriously.  Look.

Sally & Henry Interwebs

I picture greasy-haired embrace, awkward, saliva-rich kisses.  I picture acne scars and sweatsuits.  Think People of Walmart.

And that makes me a horrible, horrible snob.  I know it.  Especially since I have done somewhat extensive internet dating.  Especially since I spend more hours than I care to admit staring at screens.  Especially since I am really digging Tapfish!  But my oh my.

Also last week, on the same day, this little fella flew into our house, landed on my bed.

 

The last time I saw a Katydid that close was when I was a child.

Child said, “What is it, mommy?!”

“A Katydid, Child.”

“Katydid?”

“Yes.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a bug that looks like a leaf so it is safe from being eaten.”

“Oh. What should we do with it?”

“We’re going to capture it and put it outside.”

We did.  Katydid lives to die another day.

Child’s totally a city kid.  We visited friends who live in the hills who practice burning of trash, and Child asked, “Why are you making fire?”

And I’m left wondering what the Universe wants me to know about my life, sending me the sensation of being a judgmental ass the same day she sends me and Child the gift of nature and the privilege to free it.

Anybody else with incongruous missives from The Universe (or God or gods or the cosmos or whomever you observe)?

The Effort Word [sic]

From Flickr user geishaboy500

If you know me, you probably know that I have a potty mouth.

I have, intentionally, not been 100% cautious about swearing in front of Child.

Diplomacy and discretion are two skills that not enough people have.  While this is pure theory, I suspect that understanding the value of an inner life, and of recognizing that different sets of people require different sets of tactics for getting along, is tantamount to a person’s success in life.

One can accomplish almost anything if one is charming.

The Effort Word [sic]

Child was playing outside with her neighbors.  She came in and told me, solemnly, as if presenting herself to the gallows, “Mommy.  I accidentally said the effort word.”

I said, “Do you know what the effort word is?”

“Yes.”

“What is it?”

Her eyes got wide, and she said, “Fuck.”

Then she clapped both hands over her mouth and appeared to brace for reprimand.  She relaxed visibly when I started to laugh.

“I just said it to myself, Mommy.”

“So you said the effort word in your head?”

“Yes.”

Still chuckling, “That’s okay, Child.  Just don’t say it at school.”

“Okay, mommy.”

“You can go back outside to play.”

The end.  Or so I thought.

I was so tickled by the whole incident, that at dinner that night, I asked her to tell Fella about the effort word.

She started out differently.  First she said, “Well.  I just said it to myself.” pause.  “We were playing Monkey in the Middle, and I messed up, and I just wanted to say something.  So I said, ‘I’m a fuck!'” And again she slapped both hands over her mouth with a look of terror in her little eyes.

“Oh,” I said.  “So you said it out loud to yourself?”

“Yes.  And my friends told me that was very bad.”

“It wasn’t, Child.”  I was laughing again, Fella was silently chuckling, too.  “Like I said before.  Just be careful.  Don’t say the effort word at school.”

I felt so happy to have a kid who is thoughtful and responsible enough to want to admit to me when she said something that she thought would make me angry.  I felt like the important thing was her desire to come clean.

Instead of making me angry, the incident made me feel like a good mom of a great kid.

Another day, I’ll post about how linguistic taboos are limiting and unfortunate.  Today, I’ll let you yell at me in the comments if you want.  Or not.  What do you think?  How do you handle your kids with swearing?

Post Script

I’m a big fan of Cake.  The band, not the confection.  And I’m not one of those moms who has a CD selection of stuff that’s Just For Kids in the car.  I feel like, within reason, Child can listen to what I like.  And what Fella likes.  She’s already been exposed to more different sorts of music than I knew about until I was in college.

So she likes a few tracks from Fashion Nugget, and I generally indulge her desire to be DJ in the car because it keeps her from talking about stuff during which I space out and then she gets upset when I space back in and she has to repeat herself.  So we sing together which is good for the soul.  One of her favorite songs is, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps,” and after we listen to it a bunch of times, I let the next song play, and I always skip Track 11, called “Nugget” because it contains egregious use of the effort word [sic].

But on the way down to my mom’s the other week (it’s a 2-hour drive), after making up some new lyrics to The Comanche Song, officially titled “Comanche” from Motorcade of Generosity,  Child asked to listen to “Perhaps”, and after about 8 repeats, reminded me during the next track, “It’s Coming Down,” that the one after that was the one with the bad word and that I should remember to skip it.  It’d been a while since we listened to The Perhaps Song.

“Thanks for reminding me, Child.”

“But mommy.  What’s the bad word in that song?  Please tell me?”

“I can’t tell you, Child.  But you know it.  You just said it the other week.”

“Is it freakin’?”

“Nope, not that one.”

“But it’s the Eff word?” (Where’d she learn that it’s not the effort word?  Dangit!)

“Yup.”

“Just tell me, mommy.  I don’t remember.”  (See, people?  Swearing around your kids will not scar them for life)

“How about we just listen to the song.  You’ll know it when you hear it.”

“Yeah yeah yeah!”

“But before we do, what are the rules about those kinds of words?”

“I can’t say them around grandma.”

“When else?”

“At school.” She thought a minute, “And at my friends’ house, or if I’m at the mall.”

“Very good, Child.  You know why we can listen to this song  now?”

“No.”

“Because you understand when it’s not okay to say words that could get you in trouble.”

“Just play it, mommy.”

“Okay.”

Then we played the song about 12 times and it was still playing when we pulled into mom’s driveway.  Child was visibly proud of herself.  I know I didn’t do anything in my last life or this one to deserve such a great kid.