28 November, 2010

1,000 Words

Here, on November 28th, I am. About 1,000 words to go to "win" for the second year in a row. Of course, the story is a helluva lot more than 1,000 words from completion so I may have to do some serious truncating, here in the first draft, to just reach the end. For me, winning this year has nothing to do with word count (especially now the count is so close) and everything to do with beginning, middle, end.

Just wanted to crow.

03 November, 2010


I spent much of the day writing an in-depth blog post about how I feel about yesterday's Midterm Election results. Oh, it was a good piece - full of descriptive words and palpable emotion. It had everything: rants, history, quotes. One of my best, if I do say so myself.

Then I read this piece in The Busy Signal by JA MYerson and decided mine wasn't nearly good enough - this one says it all to me. I am sorry, Wisconsin, for your loss and for those in your state who were blinded by money and lies.


02 November, 2010

1,667 Words

That's the magic number I need to write everyday. Well, I need to account for every day. If I happen to write 3,334 words in one day, then I have accounted for two days worth of writing.

But that's only if my goal is 50,000 words - no more, no less.

In fact, my goal is two-fold. Demolish the 50,000 word barrier - preferrably before Thanksgiving so I'm not worrying about it all that weekend. And complete the novel. Preferrably before the 30th when the fever is still upon me. If I go past 50,000 words by November 30th, then I am technically a winner but will it continue to hold my attention past the 30th if I don't finish the novel? That's the $60,000 question.

So yesterday completed Day 1. I started the day off, right after midnight, by writing a 500+ word prologue from the point of view of a wolf. Yes, that kind of wolf. It's like that.

Then last evening, as I simultaneously watched my beloved San Francisco Giants win the World Series, I passed the 1,667 word mark still in the narrative section of the first chapter. And as it was growing late and I'd only gotten four hours of sleep the night before, I submitted my word count to the NaNo website and hightailed it off to bed.

Tonight I hope to account for two days of writing at least; my husband is working and much of television tonight is a repeat.

Happy Day 2!

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants! Thank you for beating Texas.

31 October, 2010


If you are a Firefox user (PC) and a Nano-er, Leechblock is an excellent tool for providing a proverbial slap on your hand for wasting time online in all the millions of ways there are to waste time.

All you have to do is install it as an add-on to your Firefox browser and then configure it to block your time-wasting websites for specific hours of specific days or beyond a certain amount of time each of those days - your choice.

I have it blocking Facebook, Phantasy Tour, CNN and other mind-numbing websites and message boards that could prevent me from stacking up 50,000+ words in the next month.

I can override it if necessary but I will use that ability only in the event of a surprise Phish show or terrorist act.

The Day Before Nano

'Twas the day before Nano and all through the house

The piles of clothing lay strewn all about.

The dishes - none rinsed - lean, waiting to be cleaned.

My hope is to give them all one last shiny gleam.

For come the next morning, my time'll be taken

With plot and character and themes, not baking.

For the next 30 days, my ass will be planted

In front of my laptop, as I make myself candid.

The novel this time will be dear to my heart,

about a daughter I'd have had if I had played the part.

So to wrap up this abomination

Let me just say

It's Nano time once more

And I am once more excited to play.

(Jesus, good thing I'm not using my 50,000 words for poetry.)

28 July, 2010


I have what I consider to be two favorite books of all the books I've ever read and presumably, all the books I will ever read. Which isn't to say that I don't expect to fall in love with other books; on the contrary, I both hope and expect I will at least a hundred more times. But there are two books that are automatically on the desert island list and will remain on that list as long as the minute possibility of me landing of that desert island (apparently with enough foresight to bring a couple favorite books, a couple favorite CDs & a couple favorite movies) exists.

One of them is, of course, Stephen King's It. I spent an entire semester in high school hiding that book (unsuccessfully, it's a behemoth) in various textbooks. I don't remember much about that semester - I didn't get too much sleep. That was, at that point in my life, the longest book I'd ever read and the first time I had ever immersed myself so completely in a fictional world. My dreams of being a writer and creating fictional worlds that readers could so easily immerse themselves in began that semester. When asked the question about my favorite author, invariably, and due in great part to this book, I will point to Stephen King as the one.

I encountered my second favorite book after college, one bored Saturday when I lived with my mom in San Francisco. My mom is an obsessive reader. Her favorites range from SciFi-Fantasy to Biographies to Mystery to Philosophy to Nancy Drews. She will read just about anything. Her favorite author, though, is James Michener. I can recall her curled up in her orange chair, set on a forest green carpet and backed by forest green velvet drapes reading thick black-covered books with the names of states like Hawaii, Alaska and Texas and other regions like Caribbean, Chesapeake and Space. She devoured those books, one right after the other. And after each one, she would hold it out to me and ask me if I wanted to read it. I declined every time. Despite my burgeoning love for epic fiction, I was never enthralled with the concept of the historical fiction that he was known for.

But one bored Saturday, after having read through the majority of Mom's SciFi and Fantasy books, I pulled out James Michener's The Drifters. It lay at the end of her line of Micheners, the dust cover torn and frayed and the only one with a non-location title. In fact, the character-centric title is what stopped my finger on its spine and made me pull it out for a second look. And the description on the inside flap, about six young people traveling the world in the Sixties is what made me carry it across the room to Mom's orange chair and curl up with it, a curtain-less picture window with a view of the Inner Sunset behind me.

The plot is as simple as it reads on the inside flap of the dust jacket: six young men and women (three of each) who randomly meet in the resort town of Torremolinos, Spain and together, embark upon a journey across Europe and northern Africa as they discover each other and themselves. I could totally write book jacket synopses! In fact, that may be exactly what the jacket said. The instigating character in the story (the unmoved mover, if you will) is an older gentleman, an investment analyst whose job entails traveling across the world to meet with the clients of Switzerland's World Mutual Bank, a job I very much wanted to pursue after reading this book while on the bus and streetcar commuting to my vapid position as a glorified receptionist at an ad agency. George Fairbanks coincidentally knows four of the six young people through dealings with their parents and grandparents and therefore is welcome ingratiating himself in their lives and journeys.

It is those journeys that captured my then-young and restive imagination. At that point, I had never left the continental United States with the exception of an afternoon in La Playa de Rosarita on the Baja peninsula. I had long dreamed of backpacking across Europe, just me and my thoughts, but that was a dream that was not to come true for me. I was destined for college and the working world, how droll. I am still trying to escape those shackles.

One of the places the drifters visit is Pamplona, Spain. There, they meet up with Mr. Fairbanks and his friend Harvey Holt who is a technical representative on radars in remote locations, a job I decided was better suited to me than investment banking and still full of travel and intrigue. Harvey is a man's man - he works hard and then he plays hard. Every year, he travels to Pamplona, Spain for the Running of the Bulls and Mr. Fairbanks talks the young people into meeting him and Holt there for one of these visits.

Up till reading this portion of the book, I had never given much thought to bulls, running or in the ring. I'd seen pictures of matadors in their fancy outfits and red capes, in impossible positions as a large bull bears down on them and the crowd cheers but that had been the extent of my exposure to the tradition. But Michener, the man who builds an island up from the first amoeba to a multi-generational modern family, was not going to give the subject a light treatment. From the moment the six drifters meet up with Harvey and Mr. Fairbanks in the fictional Bar Vasca and are treated to Bull Ball Stew, not the technical name but the general idea, the tradition is thoroughly explored in the Pamplona chapters. Things I learned from Michener:

*The Running of the Bulls is actually a multi-day event with runs happening each morning and the fights each afternoon.
*There is a hospital at the bottom of the hill that excels in goring wounds, as one might expect
*The danger in the Run is in the stray bull who doesn't keep up with the pack and arrives late on the scene, frenzied and therefore much more dangerous
*Another danger in the Run is inexperienced runners who think they are man enough until the moment they see the bulls and then create a danger for themselves and those around them, sometimes pulling a more experienced runner in between them and the charging bull, putting him in much greater danger
*The most dangerous of the bulls are drugged and heavy weights are dropped on their kidneys so that they are weakened and less of a danger to the runners and the matador

While I enjoy the Pamplona chapters - there is so much more going on during those chapters than merely the Running and the Fights - they have certainly had a hand in bringing out my inner indignation at the treatment of the bulls. So much so that when I hear of the Running coming around again, I always, always shake my head and say aloud to no one in particular: I hope they gore the whole lot of 'em. There was a story earlier this year of a matador, Julio Aparicio, being gored in the throat and though the pictures were far more gruesome than I prefer to see, I felt only justification at his injury - he didn't die. I know, it's not nice. I shouldn't wish for harm to come to other humans but I am so disgusted by the tradition and the fact that they cheat in order to make sure the humans win that I want, for once, the humans to not win. I want the bull to win. In our recent history, we have done such a great job of recognizing our many and varied inhumanities and learning and progressing out of them - abolishing slavery, giving equality to all citizens (western world) - we have a great deal to be proud of in our growth as a species but we still have that nasty little habit of dominating the other species, as if it stems from a bible of some sort. We are still working on the full equality of all humans so maybe I'm jumping the gun in hoping we can start having a little respect for all Life, but can we start that soon please? I know I eat meat and I know I have some leather in a closet and I don't have a non-hypocritical way of explaining that other than the Food Chain so we'll not address my hypocrisy just yet. Suffice it to say, I am learning to enjoy more and more vegetarian meals and maybe one day will be able to eliminate an animal or two from my diet. And I really don't mind faux leather so long as it holds up like the real thing. But anyway ...

CNN has a story this morning that gives me hope for the respecting all Life dream which is where this whole rambling blog post comes from. It seems that despite the deep tradition of bullfighting in Spain, the Catalonia Parliament voted 68 to 55 to ban it. This landmark decision won't apply to all of Spain, only to the Catalonia region which encompasses the western portion of the Spanish mainland, including Barcelona. It is nonetheless, a huge blow to the "sport" and one that I hope is only the beginning. In the article, a young Catalonian bullfighter laments the possibility of the end of the career he has just begun but you know what, he can go back to school for something less ... cruel and ... inhumane. Become a software engineer, you don't need to drug or dominate anyone in the IT industry and you can make a lot of money. Sure, there will be less girls flocking around you but the upside is you won't have to wear such flamboyant and sequin-infested outfits and that can only be a good thing, right?

I doubt that I will see an end to red-belted men in white shirts and pants feeling as though they have something to prove every July in Pamplona in my lifetime and that bullfighting will continue to flourish and excite in Spain and Mexico but all great progresses in human history have begun with a single step and I am so happy to see Catalonia take this step.

13 May, 2010

My Life in Fiction

My audio books as of late have had a habit of mirroring, or at the very least, commenting on my own personal current events.

Starting with The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet in which a young Chinese boy befriends and falls in love with a young Japanese girl in WWII Seattle. I began reading this as I started planning our few days in Seattle this summer to precede the take-off of our Alaskan cruise. Not only did I enjoy the story very much, but I also planned an afternoon of our Seattle adventure to be centered around the hotel in the title of the book, the Panama Hotel.

A book or two later, I embarked upon the story of a lifelong friendship between two women that, in that genre, is always destined to end badly. And it did, right around the same time and in much the same way as my friend Lisa's life ended. So for the long rides up to her house and back, the ending of that audio book added to my already healthy fall of tears.

And now, another book about female friendships - not sure why I landed on this genre as of late; the library seems to always be out of the other books that I'd prefer to read. It too is apparently following the familiar pattern of ending in tragedy and this tragedy is too much like Lisa's. A cancer that has metastasized to the liver but the primary node cannot be found. And now I understand the trepidation that came along with Lisa's chemo treatments, that without knowing what cells to attack, the chemo needed to be more general which is a danger to healthy cells as well as unhealthy ones.

What next: a book about camping in Indiana? Hopefully it will be more light-hearted - it's damn hard to drive with tears in your eyes.

04 May, 2010

It's Time

I've been struggling to write this next blog post and have written a few different versions already that I've then subsequently closed without saving. Perhaps this one will make it all the way.

Both Jason and I received a Facebook message from a friend a few months ago letting us know that she had been diagnosed with lymphoma. The news was less shocking than you'd imagine as this friend has had a passing acquaintance with various forms of cancer for the entire time we've known her. While we didn't reconnect with her as often as we should have, it seemed like everytime we did, she had just gotten out of the hospital for this or that. Her health was shaky, at best.

It turns out that lymphoma wasn't the correct diagnosis and that the situation was much more dire than any of the previous cancers she'd had. Within a month, she was undergoing chemo treatments for a mysterious form of cancer that began as a large tumor in her stomach and had started to spread to her liver. Her boyfriend, Jake, kept us informed of her progress when she was too weak to talk and one night, when Jason was out at a consultation, my phoen rang and it was her. I picked up immediately and turned off the television. We had an amazing conversation full of positivity and hope and liberally sprinkled with cold, hard facts. Her first round of chemo had gone well and the doctors were very pleased with how much the tumors had been beaten back. They would continue the same path and hope for even better results the next time. We made a date for me to come up the next week and I hung up from that conversation feeling full of hope for Lisa's prognosis.

That was the last time I spoke to her. The date we'd made ended up having to be cancelled because the doctors had pushed her chemo up to more aggressively attack the tumors and after that second and final round, they discovered that the cancer had gotten smart and dodged that which threatened it. It began to consume her liver, a much more important organ than I'd ever realized which was needed to process the toxins in the chemo. They called her in and told her the bad news. I wasn't there, I don't know how she took it other than through other people's words. I can only imagine how I would have taken news like that, so add a healthy dose of grace and dignity to my conjectured response and that's how I imagine her reaction. The thought of processing news like that devours me.

Jason and I made plans to go see her Sunday April 25th, to say goodbye. On Saturday, Jake called Jason and told him we needed to move it up. Jason had a couple of consultations that early afternoon so we made arrangements to meet up at an Oasis on I-94 since we'd be coming from two different directions and continue on together in one car.

When we got to Lisa's parents' house, we joined a large crew of family and friends who rambled between her room, the living room, the kitchen and the breezeway for smokes. Lisa was unconscious and had been since about noon, right before Jake called Jason. She was never to regain consciousness.

I met three lifelong girl friends who were there originally for a fun sleepover that had tragically turned into a death watch. June, who has known Lisa the longest - since kindergarten - is a petite blond with the bluest eyes and sunny disposition. Nicole shares Lisa's love of all things hippie and is powering through supporting everyone while pregnant. Julie is a constant tower of support for Lisa's mom and Jake as they helplessly watch their girl die. Lisa's friends are vehemently supportive of the process as only intelligent, accepting individuals can be. They massage her feet and hold her hands and hug her mom and fight back their own tears. Truly an amazing group of women to be surrounded by.

Less than twelve hours after we said our goodbyes, Lisa peacefully passed from this world.

I still get teary with a phrase like that. Facebook suggested that I reconnect with my old friend Lisa Rosemann last night. Talk about a rock in the pit of your stomach. I'd give anything to do so, thanks for bringing it up, Facebook. And yet it gets away with it because it is a program and no one gives a program a dirty look when it puts its foot in its mouth.

We followed through the entire process. Went to the wake on Tuesday night. The funeral home was crowded almost the entire evening with friends and family and neighbors and acquaintances and even the mayor of Antioch showed up at one point. They had an open coffin and had put a wig that Lisa chose for her open casket as the chemo had worked well enough to take her beautiful head of hair away. Another thing I can't fathom: choosing your own funeral look at this age.

The funeral was Wednesday. Jason was a pall bearer and told me in the ride up that Catholic tradition is that the pall bearers are the messengers and that they should have a hand on the casket at all times possible until the priest has duly sent the soul up to heaven. I'm not a religious person, at all, but I thought that was particularly poetic in a time like this.

I've been to a couple Catholic wedding ceremonies but never to a Catholic funeral mass. There was much more singing in grief than there is in celebration. I hope the pomp and circumstance of it all comforted Lisa's parents - I found it to be entertaining in those moments when I forgot why we were there. I found the incense swung over the casket to be cloying and not unpleasant. And in the end, I cried. And cried. And cried. I cried quite a lot last week. As did so many others.

I took away from it all: Love and mortality. Both are bound to get ya. Hopefully with several decades between them.

Much love, Lisa.

19 April, 2010

My My My ... How Times Change

Killing some time, waiting for a vendor to show up at one of our satellites. Decide to look up Flunk Day to see if there are any rumors pages I can access and stumble upon The Knox Student website. TKS is a weekly student newspaper for Knox College. They had a couple of articles about Flunk Day but nothing with a link to rumors.

So I clicked around and started reading other articles and came across one entitled ,a href='http://www.theknoxstudent.com/newsroom/article/all-plugged-knoxs-laptop-controversy/'>"All Plugged In: On Knox's Laptop Controversy". My interest piqued, I clicked through.

First off, I was shocked there is a controversy. I thought it was a bygone conclusion that laptops are everywhere and thus belong everywhere. I know in my day, laptops didn't even exist. But then again, neither did color monitors. And our printers were very, very loud. When I went off to college, my dad asked me if I wanted him to buy me a computer for school and it being 1989, I said no thanks, Dad. I'll get a word processor - that's all I need. And I was right. With the exception of a stupid Apple computer that corrupted my floppy disk right before senior finals, I rarely used much more than my word processor.

Had I been born 10 years later and entered Knox the fall of 1999, my answer would have been different, although I doubt the question would have even been asked. By that point, more than likely, I would have gone through an entire junior high and high school career using a computer and my dad would have known that I expected to do the same in college. And by that point, I may have been gifted an IBM Thinkpad 600 with a 300 mHz processor and 5.1 GB of storage. And I would have been on the cutting edge with a machine like that.

When I was a student, the only way to take notes involved ink (or graphite) and paper. Professors spoke fast so it also involved copious amounts of unreadable scribbles stretching across the lined sheets in front of me. The process of going over those notes later for a test inevitably ended in headache.

It seems a little odd that Knox is having this controversy now. Laptops have been in students' hands for over a decade so I have no doubt they have been in the classrooms just as long. Why carry a 4oz notebook when you can haul a 6lb laptop from SMaC to CFA?

Of course, the answer is Facebook. And Twitter. And old fashioned email. “We’re starting to get a generation of students who have always been multitasking ... What a lot of students are weak on now is the ability to focus.” How times change. And how I stay the same. I have always had a problem with focusing - clearly, I was born 20 years too soon. I am of the wrong generation and now know why I have been unable to focus all my life. Facebook. Twitter. Email. It is apparent to me, I have been social networking in my head all of these years, waiting only for a machine that could provide an actual connection to real people rather than the imagined connections to no-doubt the pretend-people in my head. I am so thankful that it has finally caught up with me and given me a forum to truly be my multi-tasking, unfocused, inattentive self.

Thank you Bill Gates! And thank you, Facebook.

16 April, 2010

Pet Peeve #543.3: The Elevator

They keep us in the basement. Us being the employees in the IT department, the basement being a secure zone that requires a keycard to access. So in a building of three floors, four if you count the basement, the elevator is a necessary means of transport when an executive on the 3rd floor is in dire need of an installation of software he will never use. So, being in the basement, I am the first one on the elevator and, being of moderate intelligence, I press the appropriate floor number.

Now, we are a public business and while I am insulated from the public by the security of the basement, I am still likely to run into a member of said public on the elevator or one of the floors above, where they are allowed. I don't relish these moments; I am a relatively anti-social, shy individual. I like the basement - I like being secured away from the public, I presume for their protection from me. I smile at the old ladies getting off at the 2nd floor but that's only because I know I will one day be one of them and hope that when that day comes, someone will smile at me. I smile at the old men because my dad is an old man (sorry!) and I think the world of him so all old men must be pretty good people. For anyone without white in their hair, well, yea, I generally ignore them. I will give a very brief upward curl to the corners of my mouth and then return my stare to the nicely tiled elevator floor as they get on and push their buttons. Or as they get on and see that I have already pushed the button for the floor they need.

But then there's the ones who see that the button they need has been pushed, it is the only lit button on a darkened panel, and they deliberately push the lit button. Once, perhaps twice. Some even hold it in, to make sure it gets the message. Take me to the 3rd floor. I really mean it, unlike the incompetent person who is already on the elevator with the lit 3rd floor button. It is for those people that I reserve a not so unnoticeable rolling of the eyes. Are you kidding me?!? I am not, in fact, chopped liver, standing here in front of the elevator doors you just walked through. I am an intelligent being who knows how to push a fucking elevator button. As you can tell, by the fact that the button is lit! So stop pushing the same button as if you're the only person in this hurtling metal box, you idiot, you!

Phew. That felt good.

09 April, 2010

Art of the Short Story

When I wrote my 50,000th word during last November's NaNoWriMo, I earned myself a CreateSpace proof copy of my book. In the middle of the month, when I strained to find time and inspiration to continue, this reward kept my feet (or in this case, my fingers) moving ever forward. It won't get me too much closer to The Dream of being a best-selling author but it does - technically - get me part of the way there by being a published author.

The problem is, there is a limited time to receive this reward and despite having written just beyond 50,000 words, the novel was nowhere near an end. My motivation to complete it, however, was ... at its end, that is.

If I haven't mentioned this before, I'm a terrible Closer - a fact that drives those near and dear to me absolutely, insanely bonkers. I'm really good at starting, but that's little consolation when what you've started sits in a closet for two years, waiting to be completed.

I had this idea to make these reusable grocery totes from fabric that had always captivated me when I'd wander the aisles at Joann's or Hancock Fabrics. I didn't need a pattern; I'm actually pretty good at fashioning things like that from scratch. I made a decent amount of money a few years back creating "poster pouches" for the die-hard Phish poster collectors who had to run in and grab the show poster and then worry about its safety for the remainder of the show. So I created these long, slender bags that held poster tubes of various sizes. I lined them with vinyl to help resist water and covered them with cool fabrics like corduroys and interesting patterned cotton and sewed a shoulder strap on so they could be comfortably worn throughout a show for those people who were just too nervous to lay their paper booty on the ground. I created the pattern from scratch on a scratch piece of paper that I've long since lost and went and bought a whole bunch of different kinds of fabric and vinyls and went to town. I created the first one in about four hours and got so I could do one about every three hours.

I don't know exactly how many I made but we sold all but two of them for barely enough money to cover the fabric and supplies, much less labor. It wasn't a very lucrative business given the time it took, the money spent and the limited client base, most of whom only needed to buy one. My husband convinced me to create a wider, longer pouch for tapers but again, limited client base and even more money for more fabric. That may be the one project I started that I actually chose to finish rather than finished without ever making a cognizant choice.

What I'm getting at is I have a short attention span. I'm like a puppy. I jump from thing to thing with a wagging tail and when I grow bored, I jump to the next thing. Or I take a nap. Taking on a novel was a huge thing. My mistake, I think, was making my goal 50,000 words rather than actually finishing the novel. I made my goal, I didn't need to continue. But that's not entirely true. I really did need to continue.

So I have this free proof copy I can use, but I only have till July 1st to claim it. I have an unfinished novel that no longer interests me and a few short stories that keep me happily writing. What to do.

Why not use the proof copy to compile my short stories? I have many. Some will never see the light of day, even with this proof copy - they were practice stories and read as such. Some of them, however, are actually really good. I'm a good writer, better even than I am at creating bags. But I am a short story writer. Besides the 50,000 words I threw together in November, the longest thing I've written before is a 100 page novella that bored me around page 60. Somehow, I persevered and completed the novella but never completed the idea - it was intended to be a series of novellas with a common character.

The beauty of the short story is in its compact nature. I can get in, right in the middle of the action and end it within 25 pages. If I have an afternoon and inspiration (and the ability to block out Facebook and the various other online distractions - the Leechblock add-on for Firefox is great for this), I can write the entire story. Or if not in one day, certainly two or three days is no problem. Because it doesn't drag on, because there are a limited number of words to go from the beginning to the end, the story is all action. There is no need to describe the banister which has been in the family 107 years and polished to a sheen by the sliding asses of generations of rambunctious boys and girls. If a description of a non-essential element of the story goes beyond one medium-length paragraph, it can be edited.

So I started with a story I wrote a couple of years ago. I have no idea where it came from - it evolved from a name that popped into my head. That one is definitely in the proof copy; it just needs a final edit for schlock and it's done. Then a story I wrote a couple of weeks ago inspired by an email I received from myself. That one will need more editing, but it's sitting and I'm forgetting for now. And another story I started a couple of days ago - again, I had a name in mind and wrote a sentence with that name in it and the story began. I found a couple of really old stories on my website that I think I can put in as well; they need a little updating and a lot of editing but they're still really good stories, even from so long ago.

The goal is to get nine stories. I know Salinger already did Nine Stories but nine is my number and I don't have to call it the same thing. But it will be the same thing. Nine stories. I read Salinger so easily because I write a lot like him. So why the hell not.

I just need four more. By July 1st.

24 March, 2010

America - Fail!

After 16 Years in Prison, a Whole New World

To sum up the story, Greg Taylor was freed from prison, 16 years after being wrongfully convicted of murdering a prostitute. The State of North Carolina dug deep upon his release and handed him a $45 check for a room that night. I should imagine it took him at least seven hours to find a motel that would accept only $45 for a night and no credit card for a security deposit.

The disgusting thing about this story - okay, the most disgusting thing about this story then - is that it further proves that we have completely lost sight of one of the most fundamental ideals of the original America in favor of the one of the most common sins of the current America. The prosecutor who so zealously made the case against Mr. Taylor was fighting for what amounts to be no more than a notch on a bedpost. A deep notch, to be sure, but a notch nonetheless.

An upwardly mobile prosecutor advances his or her own political cache with each successfully fought high-profile case. He or she is commended on their numbers alone; the quality of work behind those numbers is beside the point. The same thing can be said for the police officers who “solved” this case and so many cases like it across the country. Their job is to get their man. Their man may not be the man who perpetrated the crime but that’s not really their concern. Their concern is decorations and commendations. Which have more to do with numbers, again. We’re obsessed with numbers but could care less about the truth behind those numbers.

The phrase Innocent until proven guilty has become an empty idea that no longer matters to the ever-increasing empty heads of our fellow countrymen and leaders. Never mind the fact that it is one of the most basic tenets that we built this country on. I know, it’s a shock - we did not, in fact, build this country on mass-manufactured plastic flags in which to wave and proclaim a patriotism we don’t actually possess because we don’t even know what our country stands for anymore.

America began as a statement. As an English major and a lover of philosophy, this is my favorite part. In what once were a few colonies of settlers still beholden to a far-away and unpopular king, a germ of an idea for a just and progressive society began. Our forefathers had grown weary of and had chosen to escape a fading world in which the Few heaped a lifetime of overwhelming injustices upon the Many. The migration began in the name of religious freedom which is merely a nuanced subset under the very large umbrella of Freedom of Thought.

In the foundation of this new freedom, the architects planted a few basic kernels that seem simple on the surface but have power enough to suspend and sustain America indefinitely. One of those being the utterly modern concept of the presumption of innocence. Up till this point, the basis of a guilty verdict was made almost solely on a person’s social strata rather than the merits of the case. If a man of wealth accused a destitute woman of a crime, the prosecutor didn’t need to bother with burden of proof. The wealthy man won. The destitute woman’s morality was in question merely because her parents and her parents’ parents ad infinitum didn’t have the money to live on the right side of the tracks.

The concept of presumed innocence was a large leap for civilization in the 18th century but our forefathers saw it as an important declaration for the kind of country they hoped would flower under their feet. It gave an ordinary citizen rights that he or she hadn’t had before and it put the priority on fairness over fear. It says that we are more concerned with the crime of punishing an innocent person than we are with the retribution of a guilty one.

This isn’t an easy concept, and for anyone who has been a victim of crime - especially any form of violent crime - this may be downright impossible to grasp, but the fact of the matter is, in a country that is as concerned with the freedom of its citizens as America claims to be, that freedom can’t come with self-serving exceptions. Oh, except when someone falsely accuses you of a crime. Oh, except when an ambitious prosecutor needs another notch on his bedpost. Oh, except when an apathetic cop found you standing in the wrong place at the wrong time and came to the wrong conclusion. That’s not freedom, that’s luck. Luck doesn’t belong in a progressive society anymore than slavery does. Nor should we rely upon it.

In many ways, the America of today bears little similarity to the America that was borne of high-minded ideals. It’s a shame, perhaps even a crime, but it is what it is. We are a different species these days, more hungry for power and fame than for thought and process. Mr. Taylor is not the first guy to spend 16 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, nor will he be the last. We have willfully returned to an age where our society prioritizes fear over fair, greed over good, so it should come as no surprise that our prisons are rife with innocent people who can only hope that they will one day be exonerated and all the better if it comes within their lifetime.

It’s not even safe to be a law-abiding citizen these days.

15 March, 2010


I received an email in my Gmail box last night that I had to open, out of sheer curiosity. The subject line was Tell The Kids I say Hi. The text read as such:

The following is an e-mail from the past, composed on Friday, March 4, 2005. And sent via FutureMe.org

Dear FutureMe,

if you're still smoking, you're a fucking idiot!
hope everything with the house went well hope you and Jason are fine and have some great kids don't forget where you came from and never pretend to your kids that high school is a wonderful place


I had a couple moments of wide-eyed fear reading this. Who knew this stuff about me?? Then as I re-read the first line in the email, I began to understand.

This is an email I wrote myself almost exactly five years ago – 20 days before we closed on our first condo and three months and some-odd change before our wedding in Jamaica. While I don’t remember the details, clearly I stumbled upon the site FutureMe.org and thought it would be a kick in the pants to write to the Me in 2010. And knowing the Me of 2005 – who isn’t really all that different than the current Me – 2010 must have seemed like a lifetime away. Could I make 5 years of marriage? Would I have kids within those 5 years?

Other than the surprise at having mentioned kids in the positive five years ago, the brief email sounds like me. And while I don’t remember having written those words, I can’t deny they would be my words.

So, to answer it: I have stopped smoking, for the most part. Everything went well with the condo and we have lived there – mostly happily – all this time (I had a clue in 2005 that the bottom would drop out of the real estate market, but I didn’t think it would have affected us as it has and ensured that we have spent more years at the condo than originally intended). Jason and I are fabulous. We have no kids – great or not – but Terry is still swimming strong and we’ve added a psycho cat to the mix. And I still have not forgotten where I come from although, in the intervening years, I have actually gotten back in touch with many of my former high school classmates through the magic of Myspace and Facebook.

So of course, after reading the email from PastMe to FutureMe, I returned to the FutureMe website to pen another email to another FutureMe, five years further down the road. And provided the Mayans were wrong, I should get it and hopefully will have fulfilled many of its expectations by then.

24 February, 2010

Stuck in the 1900s

For being the techie that I am, it is surprising even to myself how little I have actually entered the 21st Century. I mean, sure, I have a cell phone with internet access - that came about more from necessity than mere desire: at my job, much of my internet wanderings are blocked by my own department policy, including personal email and it just wouldn't do for me to be blocked from Facebook all day long.

But when your mom tells you in passing that she has a new HDTV and Blu-Ray disc player and you are still gathering around your 27" tube television and hoping that your $50 DVD player doesn't crap out again, you know you're in danger of dinosaur-hood.

I was reading a friend's blog today about instant gratification in the 21st Century and realizing that I am living the life he fondly remembers before the days of Netflix On-Demand and it really isn't so bad. In a less-is-more kind of way, the pomp and circumstance of my once-yearly viewing of The Wizard of Oz endeared me to the story of Dorothy's strange journey (no, it wasn't just a dream, silly!) and it is still one of my favorite movies.

Of course, less isn't always more but with so many channels, I can choose for myself which needs less and which needs more. I own the DVD for Independence Day, my husband bought it for me for one of my recent birthdays because I have a tendency to watch it whenever it is on television, which is a lot. It and Dazed and Confused and several other movies that tickle me in some retro way (or in my sick fascination with the Apocalypse way) will always have the ability to stop my hand on the remote. And despite the fact that I now own several of those DVDs, I will still stop on those movies whenever they appear on television, even as the DVDs gather dust.

It's a Freebie. Same thing when WXRT plays "Backwards Down the Number Line" on my morning commute. Sure, I could queue up Phish's Joy album when I get to work and hear the same version of the same song but it won't make me nearly as giddy as when it randomly appears on the radio without any intervention of my own. Same thing with movies on TV. How many times have I been in a frustrated, I-just-want-to-kick-back-and-lose-myself-in-Hollywood kind of mood only to find The Day After Tomorrow on FX and - voila! - the destruction of New York is upon me?

And while I can be envious of those of my friends who have TIVO or DVR technology (or working iPods, or iPhones or fast computers or HDTVs and Blu-Rays), I know that I would still stop and watch Independence Day every single time I saw it on TBS and that I would only watch The Wizard of Oz every once in a blue moon when the mood hits me just right. That's just the way I'm built.

29 January, 2010

Holden Caulfield

I found the reaction yesterday to the news of the death of J.D. Salinger interesting to watch as threads appeared on various message boards I frequent.

The news first hit the message boards made up predominantly of men - this was of little surprise to me. The Holden Caulfield effect, the privileged young man rebelling against the very privilege that gives him a platform to rebel, speaks most loudly to teenage boys trying desperately to escape their fathers' fates. Many of the posts in these threads expressed true, deep grief for the man who had been virtually invisible for the last 50 some-odd years. Many touting his one novel as being the best book they ever read.

With keen interest, I closely observed another message board, one populated most predominantly (say, 98-2) by women my age or very near. This is a board of media-savvy people who often break celebrity deaths the second after TMZ or Perez has. I was actually quite surprised to find no mention of this literary great's death even thirty minutes after I'd heard. In fact, the R.I.P. thread that was finally created didn't appear for a good six hours after the first thread (of many) on the first message board - the one of mostly men. And in that one and only R.I.P. thread, there are still only seven replies, most of which are of the generic sad smilie type.

I lean more with the men on this one, than the women. Now, part of this, obviously, is that I am enamored of great writing more than just about anything in this world (with the exception of great music) so that certainly fuels a lot of my sadness. But also, I identified with Holden Caulfield, much as the men on the first message board did, when I was a less-privileged - but not unprivileged - teenager and first read the book. Adults were phonies! They dressed a role Monday through Friday and acted nice toward people they hated and thought nothing of sucking up to someone they had no respect for. I was never going to be like that! I thought Holden Caulfield was, perhaps, the greatest character ever written and hell yes, I wanted to be like him. Gender divide be damned!

I'm a bit of a tomboy. Only slightly less now than when I was a younger. And to say a bit of is actually a bit of an understatement. I'm a tomboy, even now. I have no opinion on shoes nor purses, my favorite hairstyle is bedhead and I will never understand how psychotic some women can get (although, to be fair, I will also never understand how placid some men can be, even in the face of a psychotic woman). I'm not a traitor to my gender, but I am not really a full participant in it either. A part of me does want to be James Dean or Holden Caulfield, to push out against the expectations and actually experience the parts of life that passed me by while I was too busy doing the things I was supposed to be doing. I never believed in the life track that many women dream of: college, career, marriage, kids, grandkids, etc. College, sure. Career, only if it's fun. Marriage, whatever. Kids, no thank you. Grandkids, well, see Kids. That path is too predictable. All paths are too predictable. Much better to abandon paths altogether and go where I go, when I go. Find out when I get there where it is I went. That would have been my ideal. Of course, I might have required a little more privilege to reach it, but that would have been my ideal.

Perhaps this is why Holden Caulfield had such a hold on the men reflecting on his author than the women. Why the woman merely acknowledged another celebrity death* and the men truly mourned it. The men have been fighting against pre-conceived paths while the women have been dreaming about them. Holden Caulfield took up the banner for leaving the paths behind and forging new paths of nonconformance. This is antithetical to the stereotypical dreams of little girls. I can attest to this, simply thinking back on high school and the expectations of women's wardrobe choices. And how I chose not to fulfill those expectations. Then or now.

As I've grown, I've followed a few well-defined paths and I don't regret it. I do wish I'd forged a few more, but I think I've chosen nice paths. I think it was nice to have the luxury to imagine a life wherein all the choices came solely from me, but reality bites hard. And I bet, if Holden Caulfield had been a real boy, he would have discovered that too. I guess that's the bonus to being a fictional character.

*As per usual, there are exceptions to every rule and this is no different. My friend Mel and a few other women have reflected on the Holden Caulfield in themselves and turns out, I am not alone and that is a very nice feeling. Especially when it is my friends keeping me company.

15 January, 2010

An Explanation on Markings

No doubt you?ve seen the ?s* peppering my past several ? though random and certainly not consistent ? blog postings. You can blame the I.T. department for that.

Working for the government brings with it many restrictions, one of which is online access. It?s a fluke, really, that I can even access blogs, much less post to mine ? thank you iGoogle, for doing your utmost to give me access where access should have been blocked. (Of course, part of me, the I.T. employee part of me, says shame on you iGoogle, for doing your utmost to give me access where access should have been blocked. I try not to listen to that part of me, but sometimes that droll monotone just bores into my brain and I can?t help but to listen.)

So, when I post using iGoogle, there is a bug of some sort that transforms hyphens, parentheses, apostrophes and other punctuation heroes into question marks. It may even transform my favorite ? the ellipses ? into a question mark. Let?s see ?

Sure, I could write blog posts from home, but then that takes away precious home time. Why not do my blog posts when I am here at work, desperately avoiding work? No, my boss does not read my blog. I hope. Well, we?ll find out, won?t we?

(Actually, and I?m not saying this just to save my butt in case someone is watching, there aren?t many moments that I avoid work. I spent nearly 13 years screwing around in my previous position ? not literally ? but this isn?t one of those jobs. I get to do a lot of things I enjoy doing naturally, so I do manage to keep pretty busy. I use my rare non-busy minutes of the day to post blogs which might help to explain how few and far between the postings have been.)

So, to return to the original subject, my apologies on behalf of iGoogle for the infestation of the question mark. I may or may not return to the post and edit it. If not, just know that hiding behind that ? is a ?, or an (, or an -, or even a ?

* with my luck, the question mark I typed turned into something else entirely

P.P.S. Now I?m wondering if the asterisk I typed turned into a question mark as well. Oy

12 January, 2010

The Year of Gettin? Shit Done

Okay, it?s January 12th ? I think I can finally acknowledge the new year here.

Happy New Year!

So, 2009 wrapped up with my 18th Phish show in one year ? number 80 overall, I think. I remember thinking, back when Phish first announced their comeback, that I was older now and living a more adult life with more responsibilities and that I could never tour for 3.0 (post-hiatus, post-breakup) the way I did for 1.0 (pre-bullshit).

Haha. Yea. Right. Um. Yea. Previous to 2009, my most Phish-dense year was 1998 (13 or 14 shows). Really adult there, Deb.

So, come the turn of the decade, I found myself in Miami, FL for the first time in my life for shows 15 through 18 of this incarnation. Jason secured a P.I.M.P. condo rental less than three blocks from the venue, towering over Biscayne Blvd with an uninterrupted view of the bay and South Beach across it.

I don?t know if it was luxury that surrounded us that week we were in Miami, or the delicious warm temperatures that allowed me to slip into a pair of shorts and sandals as December came to an end, or the fact that this was my longest vacation from work since my wedding/honeymoon in the summer of 2005 but something turned in me that week. Ever since then, I have been extremely anti-job.

I like my job. I like the people I work with. I think I might actually be doing something moderately worthwhile here ? unlike at my last job which often made me ashamed to admit what it was I was doing with my life since college and which eventually laid me off in the crappy economic climate, thus leading me here. In the grand scheme of things, I think I fell out of a window and landed somewhere relatively soft and comfortable.

But, face facts: it?s still a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 job. I have to wake up somewhere between 6 and 6:30 in the morning, dress in clothes I?m not comfortable wearing, drive 45 minutes to an hour to work (hour and a half when it?s snowing) and earn a paycheck and 10 days vacation, 5 days personal time a year. Some people love this. I don?t. Some people tolerate this. I have. Some people find their way out. I will. I hope.

So I declare 2010 as the year of gettin? shit done. In 2009, I motivated myself to come back to writing fiction and won NaNoWriMo with just over 50,000 words written in the month of November. I?m giving myself January and perhaps a tiny bit of February to actually finish that book. The rest of February, March and April to ignore it and start on something new, May to go through for a second draft while I ignore whatever it was I started in February and June to get it ready to make the proof copy NaNo gives its winners as a reward for making it through to 50K.

I majored in writing in college not because I wanted to avoid the more career-centric paths my father wishes I?d taken but because I have always written. It?s what I do, it?s what I enjoy doing. I just need to do more of it. And consistently.

And if I get everything I want (You know what happened to the boy who got everything he wanted? He lived happily ever after ? Willy Wonka, the original), then I can return to Miami every December and wear shorts and sandals and take showers in large glass enclosures overlooking the bay and South Beach and I can stop counting vacation days and I can go to 19 guilt-free Phish shows and still have time to travel and visit my family and read and write and throw away all work-appropriate clothing.

Lots to do, time to get shit done.