Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Heal me?

When I'm feeling out of sorts physically, as I have been lately, I step back into my hippie-child roots and long for some kind of healer to take me out of my suffering.

As a former massage therapist, I have seen a lot of strange things in the bodily realm. There is the unforgettable offer to be taught the "Tibetan Love Hug"--a modality, dubiously named, in which the "practitioner" holds the "client" on his lap, rocking back and forth and emitting a divine "light." Yeah, I know. I passed on the demo. When I was hiring other therapists for the Spa where I was director, there was the equally unforgettable fellow with the "little half-shoes," a pair of sawed-off shoes that he expected his clients to wear so he didn't have to touch the tops of their feet. His sample massage consisted of clicking my heels together in a "there's no place like home" fashion and then pressing certain pressure points on my back.

There were those horrible couple of months when I feared that one of the ladies I rented a room to in my massage office was a lady of the night--as evidenced by her futon, mouthwash, baby oil and tissues , host of seedy looking customers, tendency to do her work in spiked heels and leather bustiers-- and not a massage table in sight.

I've personally experienced a "shamanic" clearing, Feldenkreis (excellent), Breema, Reiki, integrated awareness and some things for which I'm not sure there is a name.

But I've only ever met one woman who deserves the title of healer, and whose "skill" I simply can't account for.

I went to see Sasheen Littlefeather for tight neck and jaw. My friend Rita recommended her to me. Sasheen touted herself as a "lymphatic drainage massage therapist." Upon my arrival she commanded me to strip and then stand before her, naked, for an assessment. Why I did not feel even a twinge of embarrassment I don't know, and I have never felt that comfortable with any practitioner since. She sized me up then eased me up onto her table. At that time I was having the first of a life-long set of issues with my digestion. I didn't know what was wrong with me at the time, only that 90% of what I ate made my stomach hurt among other things.

"Hmmm," she said, laying hands on me. "You need to be eating different food." She rattled off a list of items, stopping over brown rice. "No, even brown rice is too harsh for you...try millet."

I didn't think much of what she said, nor did I have time to as her big, bold hands began to contort my body into a world of pain. Good pain. Pain that tells you something is going to change inside you. Pain that, while it pulled me so close to my threshhold that at one point I felt the wavering blackness of unconsciousness seek to grip me, never made me feel afraid of it.

As she worked on my jaw--the source of most of the pain--she warned me: "I'm going to hit a place that for some people is a source of much emotion." I thought nothing of it, but a moment later (and while I may be sensitive, i'm not THAT suggestible), she pressed a spot way up high in the back of the left side of my jaw and it was as if she had pressed the "Uncontrollable sob" button in my body. A flood of tears and a huge, gut-wrenching, body-gripping sob escaped my body. If you know me, you know that I don't cry with much relish in front of others, and that when I do, I hide behind my hands and sniff daintily into tissue. This was a full body sob. It quite literally felt like a wave. She let go, chuckled and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry." I felt that she was sorry for the pain I held, not that she had caused me to feel it.

Two weeks after my visit, with a jaw that felt freer on its hinges than ever before, I went to see a nutritionist over the moutning pain in my guts. It turned out that I had food allergies, and when all the tests were done and I got my list of "safe" foods to eat EVERY SINGLE ONE of the items that Sasheen had rattled off after simply touching my body once were on that list. Even millet.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Do yourself a favor and read this scintillating interview at Too Beautiful with my friend, fellow writer, Anne Mini, with whom I once spent four hours in a tiny Montana airport (along with true crime writer Anne Rule) when our flight out of Kalispell was delayed by weather. We've been buddies ever since. Her memoir, "A Family Darkly: Love, Loss and the Final Passions of Philip K. Dick" won the Pacific Northwest Writers Association's Zola Award for Best Nonfiction Book/Memoir in 2004 and is due out this year from Carroll & Graf.

Here's a teaser for you--

"Being totally honest -- on paper or elsewhere -- is hard. There were times in the process where I was HUGELY tempted to turn away from the darker aspects of the comedy I had lived. Throughout the writing process, I was very afraid of how people would react -- not Philip’s fans, who I knew from experience tend to be very smart and possessed of wonderfully offbeat senses of humor, but of those closest to me and to Philip. I was terrified of what my mother would think, for instance.

"Here again, the lawsuit threats have been most clarifying, at a very fundamental level. It’s one thing to face down your creeping insecurities when you are not sure that they will actually manifest; it’s quite another when your fears show up with their own lawyer. So much of my writing process in the intervening months has been about making very, very sure that I was saying what I wanted to say -- and make very sure that I was depicting others exactly as I saw them at various points in my life, without prevarication..."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I just love it when intelligent people write heartfelt letters to those trying to censor literature. My fellow Bennington-ers make me proud. My June '05 classmate Ishmael Archbold is keeping score of the Arizona State vs. Rick Moody "Ice Storm" debacle here...

The letter from another Bennington alum, Ryan Boudinet, is reprinted at Ish's blog. It begins thusly:

"Dear Senator Verschoor,

I recently read an article in the Arizona Daily Sun regarding recent controversy surrounding the inclusion of Rick Moody's The Ice Storm in college curricula in your home state. You were quoted as saying, "There's no defense of this book. I can't believe that anyone would come up here and try to defend that kind of material..."

Rock on!


I come to the computer today with the goal of sitting here, meditating on the blank screen until something comes that I want to say to all of you.

Maybe if I am patient enough and sit here long enough I can channel an entity like the lady who channeled "Sethe" or my favorite, the guy who channeled the being named "Kryon." I've always secretly envied those folks who wake up one day with a voice in their head, only to realize they were not crazy, just inhabited by something with generous wisdom that has chosen them as a vehicle. These people always seem to improve their lives and the lives of others, traveling around the country offering little meetings and performances with their entities, absorbing all kinds of strange cosmic love. These people always beam and seem as though they couldn't stop smiling if they tried. They laugh a lot. They call everyone "beloved."

But envious as I may be, the truth is I would be a very bad vessel for such an entity. I'm very closed off on that level. I don't like to be invaded--hell, I don't even like to be intoxicated very often, anymore. I like the way my consciousness feels when it is steering steady and familiar. I can dig the way energy feels as it moves around, in, and through me--and when I was a massage therapist I certainly had some profound moments of "knowing" things that I could not otherwise know-- but I am quite certain that if an entity so much as tried to peek into the top of my head I would puke or get the shakes or have a seizure or something. I am, after all, the only person I know that ever passed out at the EYE doctor (those eye-drops are very startling!)

The irony is that I am a sensitive person. Like uber-sensitive--to loud noise, to people's feelings, to conditions around me, in other words the ideal candidate for, if not entitities, at least visions! I should see dead people. But I don't. I suppose you could say that I channel through my writing instead, but if that was really true, I'd have a bestseller by now, wouldn't I?

I think that the closest parallel in this life to the kind of sensitivity i hold is that I would make a good nun. I like silence. I can be very obsessive when i want, and like rituals, and am good at following structure. I could sweep the Abbey or whatever every day. I could comfortably kneel in praise of god--though really it would be in praise of the birds and the smell of lavendar and the way the sun would break through the gray stillness of the convent--every day. I could eat simple meals and spend hours of the day in silence and read in the evenings, and tend the flower garden and make sure that all the shelves in the library were dusted and the books in their rightful places.

That's probably what it would take to get a vision, or an entity to come into my head.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Warning: swearing inevitable

I don't think of myself as a particularly foul-mouthed person, but I appreciate a good expletive, especially when no other word expresses what I'm shooting for, and I've learned to concoct new and unique variations on a swear-word theme (though none like my friend Sarah O. can do). But lately I've been wondering if swearing on one's blog is like showing up to a fancy restaurant and using the wrong fork, or keeping your elbows on the table, or burping in someone's face. I am concerned that if some of the publications that I write for, which are kind enough to list my blog address, might be bothered if they realized that their readers might surf to my site where I've described a funny dream about having a penis, or listed seven slang-swear terms I say on a regular basis.

Then again the talented and highly visible Maud Newton doesn't seem afraid to swear, but somehow she gets away with seeming literary and fashionable while she does it (of course now I can't track down a single post in which she swore).

Then, as I've been watching Six Feet Under with great relish, I find myself noticeably aware of how often the word "fuck" is used, and how in at least half the instances I find myself wishing they had chosen to omit the word. Not because, as i've said, I'm offended, but because I think it's been entered into the dialog to express intensity of emotion that the characters could express in behavior otherwise. It's easier to say "shut the fuck up" than to have a character get really vulnerable in such a way that the person they're hoping to shut up, would simply shut the fuck up by dint of compassion.

Plus, all the characters refer to sex as "fucking" and it's just starting to irritate me. It's my only complaint about the show. That, and Brenda's bad behavior. I really want to like her. Be good, Brenda. Be good!


Monday, February 20, 2006

7 by 7

The world of blogging means you get tagged to answer lists of questions. Who am I to defy this etiquettte? This time it's the "The 7-Things Quiz" and I was tagged by the lovely and talented Myfanwy Collins:

Seven things to do before I die:
1. publish a novel
2. hold a chimp (E. gets first dibs)
3. see a ghost (without being scared to death)
4. have an interesting conversation with a “celebrity” that I admire (author, actor, activist, it matters not)
5. learn at least two new forms of dance
6. hang-glide
7. help someone else through their death (that's help, not send someone to...)

Seven things I cannot (and will never) do:
1. make quilts
2. cut open a dead body
3. eat a live insect
4. take drugs
5. pee standing up
6. forgive everybody
7. learn to tolerate being cold

Seven things that attract me to my mate:
1. He is kind (also sensitive)
2. He is brilliant (but not a big ego)
3. He is funny (actually, hilarious and makes me laugh like nobody ever has)
4. We can spend days on end talking to no one but each other and still not get sick of each other
5. He has a nice set of skins
6. He has seen me at my worst of worst and still loves me.
7. He likes cats as much as I do
8. I can’t tell you THAT!

Seven things I say: (I won’t tell you their context, and no, I’m not kidding)
1. Bastards!
2. sonofabitch
3. that’s my selection
4. squeeze it
5. am I gonna get into trouble?
6. check your chicken pants
7. I love the shit out of you

Seven books I love:
1. Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
2. if on a winter’s night, a traveler, Italo Calvino
3. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore
4. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
5. Madame Bovary, Flaubert
6. Lolita, Nabokov
7. Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay, Michael Chabon

Seven movies that I've loved:
1. You and Me and Everyone we Know
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
3. Beetlejuice
4. All Harry Potter
5. Rushmore
6. Brokeback Mountain
7. Red—a film by Polish director Krystof Kozlowski

And I added this one of my own to round out 7 categories:

Seven obsessions I’ve had:
1. Kyle McLachlan (ages 12-18)
2. Twin Peaks (tv show)
3. The X-Files (tv show…see a pattern?)
4. Exercise classes (freshman year of college-5 x a week)
5. Jelly bracelets (5th grade)
6. Lik m'aid (a child's version of cocaine)
7. Six Feet Under (tv show—latest obsession)

Seven people to tag:
1. Invisible Girl
2. Gayle Brandeis
3. Michelle Richmond
4. Leora Skolkin Smith
Colin Berry
Wyatt Bessing
7. Katie Stohlmann

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Ah, Martha...fly on.

We will miss you.

Please take a moment of silence as my friend Martha Ley makes her quiet descent into the bardos. And while you do that, reflect a little, my friends, on all that is worthy of your reflection, in short--the world, your life, your loved ones.

“Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.”
--Lao Tzu

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lay it down

Lately I've been thinking about this "writing life" I lead. Just about everything I do for pleasure, work, or torture (grin) has to do with writing. But this is not a brag session or a plea for validation. I've been allowing myself to say aloud that writing is hard work. It requires a mental effort, an emotional vulnerability, an overinflated sense of confidence and the ability to fake what I don't have. I don't think much about it during the daily toil--some days I'm frustrated, some days I'm more tired than others, but it's just the life I lead. This is the life I always wanted, in essence. To set my own schedule, write whenever and whatever I choose, stay in my pajamas until noon and pretty much be the lord of my own domain.

But once in awhile I stop and look back five or ten years behind me and I am amazed that I got here from there. I once suffered from the illusion that one simply arrived at each new shiny oasis of success. The reality is, I can count every little pebble I laid in place to build the bridge across each stretch of water to get here. There are so many pebbles that I wonder if I had even failed to put one in place, would I be here? No I would not.

What if I had not taken a second glance at a curled little flier dangling off a battered corkboard my junior year in college, and had never signed up for that writing class of Susan Bono's--though I only came to two of the six classes. I'd have had few literary contacts; no inspired mentorship that has driven much of my revision; no leads to things like the Argus-Courier, which led to all my other freelance work, and also a time-tested friendship I value so much. I would have had no database of emails that allowed me to get LiveWire started.

What about that terrible job at the vitamin store that seemed utterly pointless with my paranoid, drug-addled boss always on my case? Nope. I needed that break from my intensive job at the health club to rejoin writing classes, and it's where I met one of my dearest friends, Whitney--who buoyed me up when another friendship of mine was painfully falling apart. It allowed me to write the novel that landed me an agent--a very learning experience.

What if I had not started making beaded hangings for my windows that turned into jewelry that I eventually sold at the farmer's market where I met Karen Ford, co-owner of Zebulon's Lounge?

What if I had never foolishly decided to organize readers around a theme at Zebulon's Lounge--which paid me nothing but the reward of getting to shmooze with my fellow writers?

Well this entire house of cards would crumble if you took that out. I'd never have started Word by Word, never have met my writing partner Rebecca (who personally got me the last job I will ever have that allowed me to work for myself, and who turned me on to the Law of Attraction). I wouldn't have made friends with the scads of writers who have buoyed me up and kept me strong.

Without Word by Word I wouldn't have been asked to present classes and workshops and build credentials and decide to pursue an MFA...and so on.

Pebble by pebble by pebble I have built a writing life.

And I feel myself standing at the lip of a much larger bridge now. The pebbles are bigger, the water is deeper, and though I'm scared, now at least I understand that there will be no shiny chariot that swoops down and carries me across to the glamorous island of fame and success. If it comes, it will come in this same, steady, plodding way, because it's my path, literally, and if I don't throw it down, it will not form.

I think we forget that we lay down our lives this way. We are too busy living to notice how far we've come (or gone). Nobody put us where we are, or forced us into this life, or keeps us where we are. We do. Our beliefs and comforts and fears and dedication keep us.

I am deeply gratified to have had the immense opportunities and tremendous support to get even this far.

(God did that sound like an Oscars acceptance speech or what?)


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

People, it's important that you not forget what valentine's day is really about:


Oh, all right...

It's about the man I love:

Sunday, February 12, 2006

So at long last I saw the animated movie that created such a stir and won an Academy Award--Spirited Away. Considering how much everyone raved about this movie to me, I am afraid of the response by ardent fans when I say: am I the only one who felt as though you had to either be on acid or just recovering from heavy anesthetic due to surgery to enjoy this movie?

I loved the animation itself, and I appreciate the cultural richness in the story that is also, at the same time, foreign to me...but I felt like I'd sidled into one of my bad dreams, the kind you wake up from and think: Did I really dream of a stink spirit taking a sauna and a big-nosed magic-wielding madam with a giant baby?? Plus, the American voiceovers were terrible. The main little girl, Chihiro, shouts throughout the entire movie. The character named Lin sounds like she's from southern California. Yubaba sounds like Cloris Leachman. I mean...couldn't they have gotten some talented actors?

But mainly, when I see an animated film--unless I'm watching Spike & Mike's twisted animation--I want to come away feeling jolly and full of moral cheer about how to be kind to others or how not to hate. In this case, I had to check to see if bugs were crawling out of my skin!

I think I'm doomed to become like one of those old men from the muppet show, the ones who sat in the balcony and jeered at everything. I seem to dislike that which everyone else likes, and fall madly in love with that which others don't have strong feelings about.

* * * * *
In other news: The gray hairs have begun. I've found three. THREE!!!!!!!!


Friday, February 10, 2006

A dream to make Freud happy

I had such a shockingly Freudian dream last night that I just have to write about it, though, I admit, I'm a bit embarrassed to tell you. In this dream I was a man and I was traveling somewhere, as if on business. When I arrived at the hotel where I was to stay, it was then I realized I was a man by discovering I had a penis (one to make any man proud, too!). A maid who hadn't yet finished cleaning the room noticed it too, and wide-eyed, quickly disappeared. I'm most embarrased to admit that when I made this discovery I was quite enthused by it, and in fact, felt a great welling of power and strength due to my having it, a kind of "ah-hah" moment, the way you might feel the first time you went sky-diving or something: "So THIS is what the rush is all about!"

It turned out another man was in this same hotel room, and he didn't like sharing his turf with the male-me. So he and I engaged in this psychological sparring effort to out-intimidate the other. He took me by car to some estate to show off how much money he had, but ultimatley he chickened out, because he knew that to show any more power he'd have to get violent with me.

I mean...What??


Thursday, February 09, 2006

This article published at SFgate today reminds me that I have absolutely nothing to complain about regarding any physical hardship whatsoever.

In other news...the Wednesday essay spot will now become the "Randomly-rotating-whenver-I-feel-like-it" essay spot until further notice or a personal assistant is magically bestowed upon me.

As of March first, I will be a resident blogger for the Petaluma Argus-Courier, posting once a week on things of a literary nature. However, you will still find things here, even if i do simply wind up double-posting.

Your secret word for the day is: "chin pretzels."


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hi again...

I'm concerned about myself and I want you all to weigh in. Tell me, when did I stop being a networker? Somewhere being starting a literary reading series (ongoing!) at Zebulon's Lounge and becoming a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants radio host, I sort of dropped the ball.

That ball that has you shmoozing and selling yourself and making sure people know your name or are familiar with your work. That ball where you go to writing conferences and pitch your ideas and get a Publisher's Weekly page and spread the love and drop names and get people to be unable to forget you.

I want to be good. I want to be making new connections and asking authors I interview for tips and insider information and names and cocktails...

But I don't. Maybe I can't.

What I can do is write, and revise and come up with lots of new ideas and write more and get things with deadlines done. But I don't remember how to wave my pom-poms and I've forgotten how to keep in touch and how to ask favors and how to make myself look good.

Am I complacent? Am I one of these writers doomed to obscurity? Am I perhaps, a little pre-menstrual?


Monday, February 06, 2006

My dear readers. If you were my significant other, you'd have left me by now. I’ve just not been in a blogging way. This is because what they say about blogging is true for me: you can blog or you can write creatively, but you can’t do both, not in any serious way. I fear that when my writing friends are giving good blog on a daily basis, they aren’t getting any work done.

Though I suppose there are exceptions to the rule—but please do not tell me who you are so that I don’t feel the urge to resent you for your amazing capacity of creative thought.

I suppose a few years ago people thought that of me. “How do you DO all those things that you do?” they’d ask, and I’d demur and say stupid things like, “I don’t know, but surely I won’t be able to do it for long,” and then I’d start to wonder: What is it they think I do? And who are they getting this information from?

Then there were the folks that would see me somewhere—say shopping or getting my tire changed—and I’d be in the mood to chat at last, emerging from my cave of solitude—and they’d brush me off saying, “I’ll let you go, I know you’re busy busy busy!”

I wish I’d found out what I was so busy doing. I could have been taking this test!

My head is rising from the text-hole where I’ve been clutched that past two weeks. (Eew, that was a gross image). I finished four articles, two complete manuscript edits, a book proposal and read two complete novels. Oh…yes, that was a plea for validation. Please, slather it on. I must confess to a little bit of glee that people actually heard my book review on the California Report (KQED) this time. All over the state! I will further confess that seeing as my graduating high school class is finally getting it together to have a belated ten year reunion (it will be thirteen years, I think, by the summer when it is finally being slated), I wonder if any of my former classmates heard it and realized it was me (I used to go by "Jordie")?

How have I been spending my down-time, you ask? Well, as un-hip as I am, I like to rent shows that were popular awhile ago since I have this beautiful marriage to Netflix. So now that I finally finished season nine of the X-files—after watching the entire series straight through from start to finish (took me two years), I’ve begun watching Six Feet Under. And E. is watching them with me. They are SO GOOD!! Oh, I love Netflix. I love HBO! I don’t have any subscriber channels, so this is a real treat. It's only midway through season one, but the characters are really developing and the storylines are surprising and I love them all in all their trials and brokenness. They’re wonderful!

Yeah. So that’s how I’ve been spending my free time. That, doing some Pilates, writing some fiction long-hand that I’m trying to tell myself is NOT a novel (because we all know how well I’ve done this year at actually finishing things), trolling my favorite website, and just sort of trying to get through each day without a brain hemmhorage (how the F* do you spell that word?).

But life is good.

(First I spelled that gooed. I like that word better. I officially coin it! If it's good, but also challenging, it's "gooed." As in goo).

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Ever the seeker of attention this week, I report:

I have not weighed in on the James Frey debacle. However, appropriately, The March issue of The Writer magazine has my feature article in it, and ON the cover, which is called: "Turn fact into artful fiction."

And, if you can, listen to my review of Martha Sherill's new novel, The Ruins of California, on The KQED's California Report tomorrow, Friday February 3rd. You can listen via their online streaming, or at 88.6 FM in the Bay Area. The website tells you which numbers on the dial to turn to if you're in the state.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It's Idol time again, so today I give you an essay I wrote last year on the subject. Now you know what a geek I really am. If you had any doubts.

My Idol
Jordan E. Rosenfeld

On pause from my usual television fare—DVDs of old X-Files—in a freak channel surfing fit, I tuned in to the first show of the 2004 American Idol season. I was vaguely familiar with it from a volley of office gossip at my last job, two of my colleagues in absolute thrall over who had been "wronged" by being voted off each week. I decided offhandedly that it was another avenue for vanity and delusions of grandeur, helping the already beautiful and successful become more so. I had reached the Reality TV maximum line in my brain. Just that lurid icon: FOX (famous for shows like "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance, and "Joe Millionaire")) flashing at me from the screen, if not a commercial for the Simpsons, was enough to make me flee the living room for the last few television seasons. I'd grown weary of shows that demean and debase, that incite couples to cheat and cheaters to feel unrepentant.

Little did I know, that American Idol, with its now famous triumvirate of judges, and former nobodies—like the perky Kelly Clarkson whose weight was always in question or the dark horse with lungs of steel, Clay Aiken—would get under my skin, and in the long run, remind me why shows like this, which have a long tradition (Lawrence Welk, Soul Train, Star Search), are actually good for us. And I do mean us. You and me. Us here in California, them over there in Minnesota, and Florida and the Dakotas.

First of all, the show has everything one goes to see a good movie or reads a good book about: Complexity, drama, intrigue, clashing personalities, errors in judgment, roads not taken, all tied up in a bow with glamour, and the chance for fame and fortune sprinkled on top. Oh, and let's not forget singing.

Last year 70,000 people auditioned in cities all over the country, from Hawaii to Los Angeles. They came in sparkly tights and slutty cat suits, in mumus and velvet pants. At their worst, they butchered pop music and choked the soul out of soul music. Thousands of throats were cleared to no avail. Faced off with the reality of the judges, countless wannabes lost their courage, or found the strength to flip off the ones who deemed them unworthy.

Yet even the worst singers, those doing chintzy jazz "skat" routines or ventriloquism, had a certain gleam in their eye that was recognizable: they had dreams. Dreams that allowed them to risk the tremulous cracks and volleys of a song out of tune, warble their tuneless voices in front of three of the most successful (albeit--unlikeable) people in the music business: Randy Jackson former base player for Journey, Paula Abdul—the eighties choreographer/singer with a heart of gold, and Simon Cowell—a British music producer with a mouth of pure vitriol. Auditioning in front of them took courage, man. Courage which, I asked myself, would I be capable of mustering? I mean, I can carry a tune, and I can occasionally be persuaded to do it at birthday parties or for singing lullabies, but I would sooner get dental work without anesthesia than put myself in the shoes of those auditioners, doing so with millions of people watching.

But this show is not designed by total morons, much as I'd like to give television producers little credit. It is hip to us. It knows about that good old feedback loop by which we put out our greatest dreams and hopes and it feeds them back to us telling us that these ideas are original. There's nothing original about it, actually, which is what makes it work so well. We know this routine! It's a sure thing. Like life, some of these people will go on to great joy and many of them will have their hearts broken. It's a life lesson, in a way, that actually contradicts the message that you must already be beautiful and successful to win.

You know those adorable clips of famous people they show where the now stylish, hip person was once a little bit awkward, with too-thick eyebrows and uneven lips, zaftig and sexy before the plastic surgery…in a word…normal? These are the majority of American Idol contestants. They haven't been through the Hollywood glamour machine yet. Some of them have literally just faced puberty. There's sweet baby fat on some young faces, the mortal coil is in evidence left and right, egos popping up like pimples, and yet, strangely, it's endearing. These people are real, which means—hey they could be like me, and you. They didn't have to know somebody to get an audition, they simply had to wait in a very, very long line.

And while their auditions are nerve-wracking, occasionally even painful when someone's garage-band dreams are crushed by Simon with a glib or cutting remark, they were just preparation for the emotional investment I would soon begin to stake in the final twelve contestants.

The final twelve is an important number. These twelve disciples, from the first person voted off, to the eventual winner, record an album and go on tour together when the show is done. By the time these twelve had been narrowed down, the show had gotten under my skin. Before, I was still taking the stance of independent viewer.

When all was said and done, I gave ten months of Tuesday and Wednesday nights to American Idol. I put off reading for graduate school, dinners with friends, walks with the hubby. Oddly enough, hubby and friends were supportive. They didn't tell me I was a bad person or a television junkie. They didn't suggest I was shallow and silly for watching. Some friends were excited and relieved to talk about the show when I brought it up. Millions of us were sitting alone in our homes nibbling our nails as we waited for Ryan Seacrest to deliver the results. We shared the same chills when Fantasia Barrino, the nineteen year-old single mother compared to both Macy Gray and Aretha Franklin, sang "Summertime." We invested our own hopes and dreams along side them. Or am I just giving myself away?

Here it is, season four (FIVE actually! another year!), a year later, and I’m at it again. Lord help me.