Jordan E. Rosenfeld Live and Write Free
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Ready to Go
My new professional website is officially up. Once a month I'll post updates there. If you know people who require editing or certain writing services, I hope you'll consider referring me.
I had a lovely birthday in my new town. My husband woke me up with a bag of great gifts and a beautiful card (but no "delicious bass" alas). My only friend here in town, Laura, took me to lunch and brought me gifts and that was really, really kind and above the call of new friendship. Assorted friends called or emailed. My cousin Patricia's package arrived from Uruguay on my birthday. Then E. and I went out for pie--I had apple with ice cream, he had chocolate cream. And after I thought my birthday was pretty much over, one of the best gifts of all came by email from my agent, telling me I'd done a great job on my novel revision and that we're ready to go. Ready. To. Go.
Some of you out there know what that means. I'm afraid to write about it at the moment. I need to go drum up some really good energy first.
But now I must go back to work today. I've got a book to finish writing.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Yes, it's my birthday today, August 30th.
And apparently Cameron Diaz's, Mary Wollstonecraft's, Shirley Booth and someone named Dennis Healey. Well, we're a motley bunch, but that's okay.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a girl whose age I couldn't really determine. I figured between 25-30. SHe was 23 it turned out and referred to how hard it is for the twenty-something set in this town to meet people. I said, "Well it isn't so easy for the thirty-somethings" either and she replied:
"Yeah, but you guys all have families and stuff."
Ah, so just in case you didn't know, once you are thirty-something you are officially uninteresting and probably just worried about kids and crap...
I'm happy. I have a really good life. The career I want. I am very, very grateful on this day of my birth. Thanks to all of you, and you know who you are--friends and more friends--who've helped make things so darn good.
P.S. My new professional website really is live today: www.jordanrosenfeld.net
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I spent two hours today helping the owners of the indie bookstore in my town unpack, shelve and move stuff around in their new location, which happens to be right around the corner from my house. It made me nostalgic for when I worked at Copperfield's books, first in Rohnert Park, where I met my beloved (when he still had a long copper ponytail and that sheen that rises off those who are newly back from the Peace Corps). I also worked at the Sebastopol location, but the first experience was the best because it was new.
The bookstore clerk is the only retail clerk in existence who is treated as more than a peon. This is because customers view you as bearing knowledge about the books they need--like a librarian. I remember people coming in and asking, "There's this book, it's blue and I think the author is a woman." What faith they had in us to conjure that book magically out of such loose information. From time to time, I could, just by chance, and they gave me the look of utter reverence that comes with such an act of book location.
Or else, "I need something good to read on my vacation, can you suggest something?" What trust!
If bookstore clerks made a decent salary, none of them would ever leave their jobs. I can't explain what it is to be around books, and readers, all day. The people like to talk about ideas, and you're constantly being introduced to new material and subjects by dint of having to shelve them and ring them up. You can't avoid it, and I love that. Oh there's a downside too--those people who cant' stop talking about something that bores you to tears, like deck repairs or how to mix your own mortar. And bookstores, like libraries, attract itinerants who just want to crouch in an aisle and let the voices inside their head quiet, or use your bathroom--which is never a good idea.
I know why the e-book never took off. You can't replace the feeling of paper and the smell of ink. You can't ever get satisfaction from a screen that a book offers you. You can't curl up over a computer with your cat on your lap and a cup of tea the way you can with a book. Or rather, with all the new portable technology you can, but why would you? I want something I can bend and fold and hold close to my heart. Something that has no microchips or batteries.
If I had lots and lots of money and time, I'd start a bookstore. Hmmm.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Cleared some major deadlines off my plate and boy do I feel good! There's this period of time I am now learning to savor when--aside from the book and other long-term projects--I finish freelance articles and I feel almost giddy with the lack of pressure of looming deadlines. Of course if the freedom were to last too long I'd be a basket case. But today I'm going to relish in the tiniest of pauses, the bliss of not feeling stressed beyond my capacities. I actually organized my desk today!
Yesterday I went to the SF Zoo. I was afraid it would be depressing, but with the exception of the Arctic creatures--polar bears and penguins--I found it fairly uplifting. It helped to have a four year-old's eyes (my niece through marriage) around to see the event through. Still, a part of me couldn't help but look at those giraffes and apes surrounded by the pervasive San Francisco fog-microclimate and think, 'this just 'aint right. But the zoo has done a nice job of making their newer habitats pretty cool and large. Maybe my brother- and sister-in-law will send me photos (HINT) and I can post some here. The remaining old exhibits, on the other hand, look as charming as those designed for the "freaks" in a circus. Not fun.
Anyways, I'm told by the National Department of Birthdays and Unbirthdays that I can begin celebrating my birthday week today, since Wednesday is the official day. Suggestions? :)
And all this was my way of saying that I just don't have much to say.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
In order to be able to play over here at the blog, I've decided to go legit by having a real website designed to showcase my skills, and my services. I bet you didn't even know I offered services, did you? And don't go making any snide or dirty comments, please. I edit and write copy for a living too.
So please, bookmark my brand new, grown-up website: www.jordanrosenfeld.net. This blog will continue, never you fear, but it will just appear as a sedate link rather than the entire show. In the next two weeks, the fabulous Jo-Anne of Wordrunner will have worked her website voodoo on that little quadrant of cyber space (though right now I'm quite fond of the little blonde lady jumping for joy as a place holder).
As my birthday is next week and I grow yet another year older, it seems to be proper timing.
I leave you with my favorite little creature in nature, the hummingbird, also jumping for joy.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Free Dope from your Brain
This post is about aerobics, but I think I feel a writing-related metaphor coming on.
Last night I took a "multi-step" aerobics class at the gym I have paid far more money to than I've gotten fair use out of. I decided that I need structure if I am to stay a healthy person whose muscles do not drip and wave off my body like webbing. Swimming is fantastic, but as I learned last night, if I thought I was getting exercise, I was sorely, sorely mistaken.
The last time I took step classes in earnest, I was 19, in college. I took a lot of classes. I had that crazy teenage energy where I could do five classes a week and rollerblade to work and go running on the weekends (it might have helped that i was not a big partier). It was nuts! I truly had buns of steel.
Aerobics classes, let's face it, are for pansies like me. Those of us who simply will not push beyond the burn; who give up right when it gets hard; who would rather watch episodes of something good they rented from HBO than take a hike. I'm borderline lazy when it comes to phyiscal activity though I do it because I should, and because it tends to feel good later. So for me, this class, in which you actually use four steps, around you in a circle, not just the nice handy one in front of you, was pure masochism.
Aerobics instructors, I'm quite sure, are Devil spawn. And since the devil always takes a deceptively attractive form, the instructor was Suzi, who is good-looking and well-muscled, incredibly high-energy and never stops smiling, even as she is on the ground doing push-ups faster than I can breathe. She reminds me of a girlfriend my father had as a kid--also an aerobics instructor--who also wound up putting her foot through the plate glass door of our house after a fight. There is such a thing as TOO much energy.
I caught on to all routines but one, which not only involved lifting my legs in a diagonal position, first one, then the other, but moving side to side and crawling up and over the step. I just stood there, laughing at myself. I simply couldn't get my brain to understand it.
Twice I thought I was going to puke.
I drank 40 oz of water in the hour's time.
My face was the only beet red one at the end, and that counts the very overweight woman who did a better job than I did.
But in the end, despite that my ass was kicked, I had ENERGY and what's better? Endorphins!!. Last night and today I feel great. I had forgotten why people push themselves to the point of throwing up and muscle spasms: free dope from your brain!
And I gotta say, like any sado-masochistic enterprise, a part of me wants never to return, but I'm also sort of hooked. I think I want to get me more of that action.
And here's where I link it to writing: The true rewards of anything do seem to come after you go beyond what you want to do and think you need to do. The revisions I've done for my agent on The Night Oracle have taken me to places I couldn't have seen were possible months ago. Each revision also opens up new avenues. It takes me deeper (and darker) and with that comes this tremendous sense of satisfaction. But it's work too, and there's always a moment of panic for me where I look at what needs to be changed and I think: Can I?
Yes, I can.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Trapped in my Brain
Lordy. I am going to take a yoga class tonight at the gym I rarely attend anymore due to swimming because I need some serious relaxation. I mean, yoga is work, but it takes your focus out of your mind, which is where I have been ALL WEEK in such a serious way that I can literally feel my head get hot at the end of each day, and not in a headache-y kind of way.
On Monday I got the revision notes back from my agent for my novel. She is killer(as in fantastic). I told her that she is like the other half of my brain--I stop being able to see what the hell to do with a plot thread and thus tie it up in a very loose little knot. She goes in with her incisive seam ripper and says, "No honey, that is not a complete knot...what about tying it like this?" And each little untied end has provided me with endless hours of further writing--which is fun, but I sort of lose myself in the process.
What I love about my new agent is that she's not afraid to get involved, to put her hands right in the book and pose important questions and suggestions for change. I know that many writers have an ethic that their work is their work and they won't budge...but I don't believe that if you hope to have commercial success. I believe that I am the servant of an idea, and I can take that idea to a certain point, but then I need readers to help me deepen and change and transform the story so that it makes sense, and works, and is believable...and when it happens to be your agent, who will be the one making a sale for you, I think it's good to listen.
I had an agent before her. He made very vague suggestions, and I got the feeling that he was the "hands off type," the "let the genius think" type...but now I wonder if he just didn't know what to say. Not to disparage him. He was a very nice person and I really did like him...it just didn't work out professionally between us, and he was far more into non-fiction than fiction. I was one of the casualties of that. I was naive, too, since he was my first agent.
Anyway, deepening and fleshing out the final bits of my plot requires SO MUCH of me that it has been near impossible for me to put my attention on anything else, no matter how necessary. I also had a feature article due this week, which I have a black out about completing. Somehow my fingers typed and my brain processed and I wrote 3000 words, but I tell you I don't hardly remember. And I've been working on a ghostwriting project about historical figures, which is immensely interesting, but I just feel sure that I'm somehow getting it all wrong. As my client reads this blog, I should just shut up and keep working, right V?
As for my Writer's Digest book, which I'll be expected to deliver half of in just a couple months, I am definitely making progress, but I'm going to have to do some serious triage here soon in order to make sure I stay that way. I'll have to reject new work--very hard for me to do--for a while. So feel free to make me donations in honor of my upcoming birthday :)
I guess this is boring shop talk eh? Well, you can wish my sweet husband a happy birthday. But you also have to wish my friends Marlene, Jenny and Robin one too...they all share the same day!
Bored here? I'm guest-blogging at Anne Mini's website...you might have to scroll down to find my last post from the 15th. A new one should be going up shortly.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Writers among you:
Check out the brand new issue of Writer's Digest Magazine, which says "October" on the cover though it is barely August still. On page 66 you will find my article, "Bliss Out," on writer's retreats. I have had nothing but good experiences writing for this magazine, and was thrilled to be made a contributing editor recently and especially happy to find my name in the masthead among such good company as Jodi Picoult and John Warner the latter of whom I also share a publisher with. However, their lead time is longer than some, so though I have written six articles, this is the first one to appear in print. I'm quite proud :)
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Reunited, and it Feels so...Weird
Okay. Many of you have asked, why a 14 year reunion and not something rational, like 10, or 15? Do we have a penchant for even numbers, perhaps? Weeeeellll. My class at Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo, CA was...how do I say this? Full of stoners? Not that into shlocky group stuff? Needed 14 years to be willing to see these people who were present for the most miserable years of our lives? Something like that. We tried for ten, we made it to 14.
We gathered in Memorial park with no crepe streamers or bad early nineties music. There were some yearbacks tossed hither and yon, and we did have nametags bearing our sad, pudgy, pale-cheeked senior visages, but for the most part you can say it was low-key.
As soon as we turned onto the street near the park I began to get jitters. Those, "will I be able to handle this" nerves. As soon as we parked and I could actually see a few faces I recognized then I started muttering under my breath, "oh god this is weird!"
Because there is no way around it...if you hang out with 50 people whose company you last kept when you were 15-17, you're going to feel those old 15-17 year feelings at least for awhile.
My first impression was as if everyone had been scrubbed and starved. Everyone looked like themselves, only...older and for the most part, thinner--with a few exceptions :) I mean there was the much admired "it-girl", still quite beautiful, though now radiating "mother," a bit more than "sexy" with her once long golden ringlets shorn to a sensible throat-length, and tall good-looking husband in tow. There was the still All-American surfer guy with white teeth and sun-bleached hair with crow's feet and a life in San Diego, quick to tell us how he was still "free of commitments" while flashing his un-ringed finger.
There were a number of moments where someone approached because you looked familiar but they couldn't quite remember who you were or if you were their friend. There was the awkward hug, the tense silence and then the question: "So, where do you live now?" and the inevitable, "And what do you do?" I confess it was gratifying to say, "I'm a writer," and mean it. I got a number of, "I always wanted to do that's...
Many people still live in Marin, and the more I heard people discussing how they still see various people from HS, the more relieved I felt that I left. I can't explain why and I don't mean to disparage Marin entirely (but a little), but there's a kind of film or veneer over Marin that I can't stand to get on me.
But there was also Jenn Moore my Sophomore year best friend, still boldly herself with that funny little girl voice, an awesome mod top on, her hair dyed black, still wrinkling her nose at babies and suburbia. Of course she owns the funky/hip consignment store in San Anselmo that she once was just an employee of. It was fun to see her. There was Liz Holmlund, my chatty and possibly too-smart friend always good for a piece of trivia or a laugh, with her comic-book penning husband and 17 month daughter, hazel. And Kelly Moore (not related to Jenn), my best friend for most of high school, who I've actually seen many times over the years as she lives near my dad in Fairfax, so it doesn't count as a surprise, still a free spirit.
One fun moment was seeing Ben Colteaux, with whom I had a strange animosity. It was sort of like we wanted to be friends but couldn't accept something about each other, so mostly we gave each other shit--and he won out on the nastiness end of things. Still, I asked him to Prom in my junior or senior year, because the boy I was going to go with (not from my school) was, I kid you not, in jail for trying to sell acid in his hometown. Nice. So I asked Ben, as a platonic thing, because let's face it, I was not going otherwise, but then he simply never called me back. So apparently I wrote something rude in his yearbook, which he pointed out, and I could tell that 14 years later he actually felt BAD, as in, he'd thought more than once about this event, and this pleased me.
But I had some nice conversations with people that I had always felt the inkling of a connection with in high school but the various bs that ran our lives then made it impossible for us to really deepen those friendships.
Then there was the one sad fellow, prematurely balding, red-faced and pudgy with a beer in his hand with a cloud of pity following him as blackly as Pigpen's dust cloud in Peanuts. Everywhere he went, crowds thinned and conversation died. I tried at first to talk to him, but soon it became just too painful. He might as well have worn a sign that said, "Abuse me."
The best example of seeing someone I had no connection with then or now was when I passed this girl, Sara, and we looked at each other and at the same time said, "Hi, nice to see you, well..." and literally trailed off mid-sentence and walked away from each other with a shrug that said, "look, we don't know each other, so no biggie, right?"
But do you want to know how I honestly felt at the end of the day? Thank god I'm not still involved with most of these people. Not because they're terrible, because they remind me all too potently of those horrible days when I was a miserable insecure mess. I have problems still, but I felt so much more, well the only word that came to mind was "whole." I feel like I know who I am, what I'm capable of, and I feel like I truly have lived up to my potential and done the best I can with my life. I didn't feel regret, or as if I was being reminded of all the dreams I'd held then, because quite honestly, I've lived my life exactly as I wanted to.
That's damn lucky!
P.S. the few photos I have will be uploaded later when blogger is cooperating.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Long Past the Itch
By the time most of you read this post, it will be tomorrow, but I thought I'd mention that one of the most successful ventures of my life celebrates 7 years today, August 14th. My marriage. And before you go making comments about 7 year itches; we've been together 10 years. It's sticking :)
And how can I not love a man who, besides being sensitive, smart and well, good at things I'm not going to tell you about here, is willing to put on wigs and lipstick for our entertainment (not to mention singing "Happy Birthday Mr. President" when he put on the platinum wig, which caused a serious eruption of giggles.) Gosh how I love this man!:
E. as Marilyn Monroe
E. as "Slash"
E. looking awfully pretty in lipstick
I promise sometime this week to blog about my high school reunion (14 year). It was fun, weird and...well mostly weird. Thank god for the passage of time, though, I tell ya!
Meanwhile, I will be guest-blogging related to the topic of my book Creating Space: The Law of Attraction & Other Inspired Souls (written with Rebecca Lawton) over at Anne Mini's blog. I will be blogging on and off for the next two weeks there, so if you're keen to get a peek into our material before the online class or the book comes out, join me there. Anne is the author of the forthcoming memoir, A Family Darkly: Love, Loss and the Final Passions of Philip K. Dick., and someone who made my four hour layover in a Montana airport many years back memorable--along with true crime-writer Anne Rule.
Also, I'm having an honest-to-goodness real website built, which should be up by September 15th. The blog will be linked, of course, but it will showcase my professional work more, well, professionally.
See y'all soon
Friday, August 11, 2006
Don't Always Trust a Wiener in Two Buns
In honor of my 14 year high school reunion tomorrow I give you some photos, and some "year-play." Keep in mind that I don't have a working scanner, therefore I had to photograph with the world's oldest digital camera a page out of my Sophomore Yearbook. Now, the lady in red is me. I am not quite sure who defaced me--probably I did it to myself--but this page affords you a good snapshot of not onle me, but two players in yesterday's post right on the page--To my right is the omni-present Seamus Ruane with the ski-slope cowlick and below me is Alex Schafran, the boy I once pretended had knocked me up for the sake of high school journalism. The photo below gives you a slightly better close up. That's me, 16 years ago. Holy shit. 16!!
Now, to reveal the true nature of some of these people, let me post their comments in my Sophomore yearbook in all their pithy glory. Italics are my comments.
"Jordan, it was very interesting (that's because I told dirty jokes) talking with you during 7th period (I was always the girl you wanted to be friends, not date). Photo was quite boring. I'm glad I got to know you this year and I hope we'll coninue next year or even over the summer (oh the promises!!). I won't be around much, but maybe." Alex.
"Jordie. French was fun. You stole my best friend, thief!" Jennifer (I have no recall of this purported theft).
"Jordie. I think you're the only person I know with a name as weird as mine. It's been nice seeing you every morning although I'm usually grumpy. You probably can't say the same."
"Jordie, I'm not very good at writing long sentimental things (as you know). I'm sorry for the mistakes (Oh yeah? Like having the audacity to tell me, "I really think we're going to have sex!" --as if it was your decision--and then dumping my ass a week later? Like that?) Enough of the hokey B.S. (spoken like a true 16 year old boy). Have a good time this summer and remember as I quote the great prophet Russel Violet (his buddy and band mate), "Don't always trust a wiener in two buns." (Amen, my friend. Amen).-- Bill "I wanna be a rock star" Rousseau
"Jordie have a great summer if I don't see ya, surf drunk but don't skate stoned. Don't drink too much coffee, it will stunt your grwoth. But good drugs won't. Cheap ones are bad, got that?" --Jack. (excellent advice I have lived my life by).
"Hey Jordie, like I said in Jen's yearbook, I'm very sorry."--Jeni (Yeah you big ho. You trash talking bit...wait...For what? I can't even remember what she did to me!)
And the piece de resistance, the most original one in my whole yearbook:
"Jordie, I glad that we are friends. You are really sweet. Never change. Call me over the summer." Chris(tina).
Never change? God. Can you imagine? I'd still be wearing crazy baby-doll dresses and neon tights, dying my hair red and blaring Sinead O'Connor while lying in bed all day pining for boys who didn't give two hoots. Or I'd still be in that corner cafe down in Fairfax, except that instead of mochas, I'd be drinking coffee and rum and bumming change off people so I could afford to eat before I made it to my night job at Kinkos, where I'd dream of becoming a writer.
Thank holy high heaven for change!
Thursday, August 10, 2006
I have a very low-grade head cold that is just exhausting enough to make me feel as though I'm working with a veil over my head. So today's post is all miscellanious.
First things first. Since when did Nicholas Cage go from being fantastic as Sailor and H.I. McDonough to being the guy that names his son Kal-El and stars in a bunch of drippy, bizarre movies?
This Saturday I will be attending my 14 year high-school reunion. This is essentially our ten year, four years postponed. We just couldn't get it together sooner than this--blame all the pot we smoked back then. While there will most definitely be friends of mine there that I am eager to see (Jen Moore, Liz Holmlund, Kelly Moore) without naming names I must say--ahem, Dan Goldstein, Mike Norton, Lucy Kaplan--that I'm quite disappointed not to see a few other names on the list. Don't you recall the good old times we had together making fools of ourselves in Drama? Carousing late at night out at San Domenico, making fun of the REAL hippies at the "freestyle dance night" downtown Fairfax while pretending we were enjoying ourselves?
And what about Seamus Ruane? Good ole' Seamus. We were thrust together in all situations by last name proximity for three years. How many lines did we stand in together, Seamus? And remember when we ended up on the Jolly Roger opinion page together? How many disagreements did we have over what constituted "news" and what "gossip." Though our fates took us far apart in life, it sure seemed like we were destined to head a small company or a venture capital operation for awhile.
And what about Alex Schafran, my undercover partner in crime on the Jolly Roger? We pretended to be a pregnant teenage couple (probably the most mortifying event of my life) and visited both "Birthright" and "Planned Parenthood" and wrote an expose. That was some bold reporting!
I must say that upon looking through my Sophomore yearbook there is one unrefutable truth. What a bunch of dorks! I'm sure we've all come a long way since then.
I am one of the very few who have rsvp'd who does not have a child, and that trips me out. I mean, I remember these people when they were trying to manage acne and Economics, not diaper bags and babysitting. It's blowing my mind.
I am trying to upload some crappy photos of my sophomore yearbook picture that I had to photograph with my digital camera, but it's not working at present. I'll try later.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
For Patricia (*Note, those words that sound like nonsense, are. He uses them to express how certain words his teacher spoke were unintelligible to him):
An excerpt from Me Talk Pretty One Day, the title essay in the book of the same name by David Sedaris.
"When called upon, I delivered an effortless list of things that I detest: blood sausage, intestinal pates, brain pudding. I'd learned these words the hard way. Having given it some thought, I then declared my love for IBM typewriters, the French word for bruise and my electric floor waxer. It was a short list, but still I managed to mispronounce IBM and assign the wrong gender to both the floor waxer and the typewriter. The teacher's reaction led me to believe that these mistakes were capital crimes in the country of France
"Were you always this palicmkrexis?" she asked. "Even a fiuscrzsa ticiwelmun knows that a typewriter is feminine."
I absorbed as much of her abuse as I could understand, thinking--but not saying--that I find it ridiculous to assign a gender to an inanimate object incapable of disrobing and making an occasional fool of itself. Why refer to Lady Crack Pipe or Good Sir Dishrag when these things could never live up to all that their sex implied?
I'm not sure which I find more amusing: that someone in Egypt got to my site by searching for the words "make sex in Jordan" or that they actually stayed on my site for a good five minutes, probably scrambling in a horny fervor through old posts on swimming and library trips growing increasingly desperate to find some of that that good ole' "make sex."
Like any hot blooded person, this naturally leads me to think about...language. So it seems that the Egyptians have a grammar construction I have noticed in many other languages. I'll go with French since it's pretty much the only other one besides English that I can read or write a few sentences in. In French the verb "faire" means "to do/make."
In English, we have no "faire;"(except the kind paired with the word "Renaissance" which refers to a freakish event for which one must dress up in brocade gowns and butcher Elizabethan English in the service of getting drunk on "mead" and possibly to make some sex) "to do" and "to make" are two separate verbs. We make a knit scarf, but we do laundry (or should!). Make tends to be attached in America to creating/crafting something, or else as an expression of force: "make me." With The Sopranos in mind, I guess it also refers to finally getting that coveted "boss" job.
I think from now on, however, I'm going to behave like the French, or the Egyptians, in this case, and "make" my activities. No more doing around here, no siree.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Since I'm out of fresh material this week, today I'm re-posting an essay that was published over a year ago in the St. Petersburg Times' Sunday Journal (Original Title was, "Lord's Prayer.")
By JORDAN E. ROSENFELD
Published March 6, 2005
The meeting was always held in dimly lit rooms, prepared as if for seances, with its own version of ghosts: people bearing the traces of former lives behind them, gilded shadows framing their eyes like soul bruises.
My mom, with her frizzy poodle perm, would putt-putt-putt in our battered Volkswagen to a place where other activities seemed to have always just finished happening; evidence of business meetings - pens and memos - or bright paper drawings of children would be scattered about.
People would pat me on the head and say, with voices scarred by cigarettes, "You look too young to be an alcoholic," then burst into laughter.
At these meetings I learned the Lord's Prayer. We were not religious; we were bohemians, a nice way of saying hippies. "Music is my church," mom said more than once. My father was not emotional about his Jewish background, the product of parents who, once the truth of the Holocaust was revealed, stuffed their horror deep into atheism.
Still, I learned the words, did I ever, Our Father, those words that - while they made little practical sense in my world - Who Art in Heaven, had a comforting lull, a promise of all things taken care of, Hallowed Be Thy Name, a gentle support, which I envisioned as a large man cupping us in his hands.
His hands were stronger than us. Stronger than my mom, who came to the meeting because of weaknesses I only understood when she forgot to pack my lunch and came dashing to the school with a McDonald's bag swinging in her hand, or couldn't wake quickly enough from a hangover slumber to get me to school on time. Surely this prayer was for people like us, with these embarrassing failures, our life crammed into an apartment that was the attic to someone else's house.
I was certain that I was one of these ghostly people at the meetings and that I belonged. Surely it was only a matter of years before I too would be here, drinking a cup of coffee, saying, "Hi, my name is Jordie and I'm an alcoholic." They wouldn't scoff or yell; they would clap, the way they did for everyone. If I thought the meeting was grand, however, I was in for a surprise when my mom spent a month at George Street Rehab Center. "Your mother is here to get better," a strange woman told me by phone in a chirpy voice. I panicked that "here" was jail or the morgue and that "better" meant without me.
But "here" turned out to be a place as cheerful and lively as our apartment was dark and cramped. At George Street, you could have as many grilled cheese sandwiches as you could make in the bright kitchen, and could smoke cigarettes. Adults even shared rooms just like kids at a sleepover. Sure, it was hard to grow accustomed to my mother being gone for that long. Sure, I didn't like the chirpy woman's certainty that my mom would get better with them. Why couldn't she get better with me? Well, that was part of the deal, see. The lady didn't offer me any Our Father, she didn't promise that my mom would get cookies, or that someone would hold her hand and say "Hi Flossie" when she introduced herself. The program that promised Great Changes didn't offer any to me.
For my first visit, my father bought me a frilly satin dress and black patent leather Mary Janes. We purchased the biggest bouquet of flowers I could persuade him to buy for her. He seemed irritated that she was there, as if he didn't really think she had a problem. Perhaps she cried; maybe I did.
For the second visit, I discarded the stiff Mary Janes for practical Keds. Surely my father didn't refuse to drive me the 15 minutes there. It must have been some kind of impatience of my own 10-year-old mind, some determination that I could not and would not wait until Dad had - finished pulling weeds? Taking a nap? Fixing his car? I just remember the walking, the seriousness of that hourlong trek. I was going to see my mom. It had to be serious. Else, why would one's mother have to leave for a month? I wanted her to be back, so we could go to more meetings and resume the way it was.
I knew all of San Rafael because I'd grown up in it. I had a map inside my head and I trusted my feet, one in front of the other, the backs of my Keds' sneakers rubbing little red sores into my heels.
I said to myself, like a mantra - Our Father, Who Art in Heaven. Hallowed Be Thy Name. And suddenly, after an endless journey of walking, worried that I wouldn't make it, Our Father Himself, whatever or whomever he was, seemed to be there, not cupping me, but pressing his palms against my back, helping me back to her.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Well I needed a good laugh today! My brother-in-law finally broke down for me what the criteria are that qualify one as a hippie in his eyes; and while I believe it was tailored to make ME out to be more of a hippie than I am, I give you the "Are you a Hippie?" quiz, by the other J.P.
Are You A Hippie?
A short quiz
1. Were you raised in Marin County, California?
2. Do you thoughtfully consider the health of your colon when writing out a grocery shopping list?
3. Do you have any sitar music in your CD collection?
4. Have you ever worn a fuzzy knit scarf with blue jeans?
5. Do you occasionally interject lines from Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ into casual conversation?
6. Do you strive towards “total consciousness”
7. Do you know who Dr. Wayne Dyer is?
8. Have you ever knowingly eaten Tofurkey?
9. Do you try and justify your depraved sexual proclivities by giving them legitimate sounding Hindu names?
10. Have you ever used a vegetable steamer so much that it burned out?
11. Is your futon couch covered with oddly shaped and assorted colored pillows?
12. Do you own a futon couch?
14. Do you listen to NPR?
15. Do you have bumper stickers that read “Arms are for hugging” or “The goddess is alive and magic is afoot”?
If you answer "yes" or "sometimes" or "maybe" to 7 or more, apparently you, as am I, are a hippie.
I feel so much PRESSURE to come up with something interesting or witty to say to you today.
Not only is it Monday but I've got a scratchy throat and have to take my cat to the vet tomorrow (just his annual tune-up). This combined with some tight deadlines make Jordan a dull girl.
I seriously need to go swimming. It's the only antidote to moodiness.
Maybe y'all could post a joke or something to lift ME up for a change, hmmm?
Friday, August 04, 2006
For those of you not on my email list, here's a quick update of writing related events I'd love to have your participation in in one form or another:
1. Listen to my review on The California Report. TODAY. Friday 8/4 at 4:30 and 6:30 pm. KQED Radio. 88.5 FM. If you happen to be commuting today or telecommuting, you can hear my review of Blithe Tomato a delightful book by Mike Madison (published by a California press, HeyDay Books) The tab at their website called Radio Tune-in tells you what time and what station to tune in. For most of us in the north and south bay, it's 88.5.
2. Creating Space, the Online Class. September 8-29.
Rebecca Lawton and I are teaching the first session of many based on the material of our book. Visit the Creating Space blog for details on how to sign up for the first session in September.
3. Creating Space, the book, Preview at the Sonoma County Book Festival. September 16. Rebecca Lawton & I will be at the Kulupi Books booth to promote our forthcoming book, Creating Space: The Law of Attraction for Writers & Other Inspired Souls. We hope to see you there and give you a preview of our book, which will be published by WaveGirl Ink in 2007.
4. Creativity Panel at the Sonoma County Book Festival. September 16, 10:00 a.m.
I will be joining Eliot Fintushel and Susan Bono on a panel about creativity. Join us!
5. Writer's Forum. "Write What You Know." September 21st, 2006. 7-9 pm.
I'm teaching a class on how to turn the raw material of real life into the stuff of fiction in Petaluma.
That's 7-9 pm at the Petaluma Community Center, 320 No. McDowell Blvd. $10/class. Drop-ins okay.
Class description: "Eager to pull from the rich material of real life, writers often tell their stories just like they happened, with no dramatic structure. In order to transform fact into fiction, writers must be willing to leave behind the truth and leap into the imagination. This requires a little careful manipulation and a lot of craft. We will walk through easy steps to achieve this end."
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
As promised, here are some choice overheard tidbits for you today:
1. From Cuthbert in California, some hospital tidbits:
Patient in hospital room with door open: "Well can't they get in there and rip that thing out?"
Person in hospital gift store: "No. Don't get him one of those. He hates that cuddly stuffed animal shit."
* * *
2. From Rhiannon in Charlotte, NC, an overheard office conversation:
Needy Little Boss Man: "This doesn't make shit for sense."
Company Bee: "It doesn't?"
Needy Little Boss Man: "No. What are these numbers?"
Company Bee: "The totals?"
Needy Little Boss Man: "What are they for?"
Company Bee: "Ummm. "When you add up the numbers-- you get totals."
Needy Little Boss Man: "Oh. Well, this still doesn't make shit for sense."
* * *
3. And one of my own, overheard at the hair salon yesterday:
Hairdresser A: "That fish place is good.
Hairdresser B: "Oh you ate there?"
Hairdresser A: No, but nobody I know has thrown up from eating there yet."
* * *
Want to contribute your own overheards? email them to writelife(at)verizon(dot)net with subject "overheard."
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Mystery of the Hippie Girl
I think I finally figured it out today what it is about me that has inspired NUMEROUS people in the last decade of my life to refer to me as a "hippie girl" when I am so clearly and obviously NOT a hippie. First I thought they sniffed out my parents' past on me somehow, like there is a hippie gene, and it just shines off you like radioactive light. Then I thought maybe I might smell like patchouli oil, or that I might be wearing more tie-dye than I was aware of...but that wasn't it.
Today thanks to a stimulating post by Joy who wonders what it is that makes Californians so wacky with their new-age-ness, the answer to the hippie question hit me. I am not religious. Not as in "reformed" or "defected"...but as in I never got a lick of religion growing up, nor did I ever seek to convert to any religion. In the ancestry of my father's blood we are Jewish, but I am not recognized as such by any Jews unless I wanted to convert. My mother's side up until her grandparents were Protestant. Whatever that means.
As I said in comment to Joy's post, being raised without religion forces you to construct your own spritiuality in some fashion, which of course then leads to "alternatives" to the big ones. If you're not some version of Christian/Muslim/Jewish/Hindu/Shinto/etc... what are you?
Since I've grown up in the virtual Grand Central Station of alternative spiritual beliefs, it can seem to others who have grown up under the influence of easy to recognize religions that I am some sort of heathen child who grew up worshipping pot plants and Jimi Hendrix and who menstruates under the full moon in a dense forest. Admittedly, my parents did dabble in everything from Reiki energy to Psychic readings, and I too have had my share of testing the cosmic waters, but I really don't think I'm that far out there.
I think that there is a fear among those who have religion that many of these alternatives don't provide morals/values/structure, especially where children are concerned, but I really believe it's up to the individual. As my friend Stephanie points out at her insightful blog, children are inherently spiritual and don't necessarily need to be taught it, so much as encouraged to be true to what they feel/sense.
Religious structures just don't make sense to me because, except for what I've taken it upon myself to read, and people's personal stories, I am simply not familiar with them from personal experience. I haven't felt called to them. This does not mean I think them all inherently wrong or bad, nor do I think I am a bad person. It's about schema, here. Honestly, I'm even far less judgmental about organized religion than I was once. And my biases has always been equal opportunity. There is just as much in sects of Buddhism and various new age alternatives (Wicca, paganism, shamanism) that I find questionable or odd as in the big religions.
What I'm drawn to is the simple idea that you do indeed reap what you sow, but not as if there is a god keeping a cosmic scorecard. I do not believe in heaven or hell. I believe in god as I find it in art and creativity and writing and reading and music and meditation in gardening, but not as described in any holy texts I have read.
And for some reason whenever I get the "you hippie girl" line, I also feel immediately defensive. I think that's because I feel as if I have to stand up for those people who don't take to religion, but who are also still very spiritually connected and believe in a lot more than hedonism or selfish personal gain.
We are not all out to get rich quick by generating the "Tibetan Love Hug." (If you missed that prior post, I'm sorry, it was funny).
Celebrate August (and support an author this month)
Today is August 1st, an auspicious day. August is my birthday month, E.'s birthday month and our anniversary month. In the decade I've been with E. I've come to see August as the month that reminds us to celebrate things--ourselves, our love, sunshine, fun, etc. So...though the horoscope at Astrology Zone is suggesting we actually have an intense, potentially complicated month ahead of us, I am already optimistic. Also in August, my 14-year high school reunion (yes, you read that right--14 years, that was the soonest we could make it happen). THAT should be a trip. I intend to take my camera and blog about it for sure.
And if all of that wasn't exciting enough, today is the first official day you can find my friend Ellen Meister's debut novel, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA on bookshelves. Ellen and I have been buddies for a few years now. She came through for me as a friend at a time I desperately needed one, and has opened her home to me more than once. She was gracious enough to host my little sister and I when we came to New York in June, despite that she was writing her second book and conducting the lives of her three busy, creative children. She made us all dinner, packed us food for the plane and drove us to the airport at 5 am on a Sunday morning. That, people, is beyond the call of duty. She's an amazing person.
Now, you may think the lives of authors are all glamour, but trust me, book sales depend upon word of mouth as much as marketing. You won't be disappointed by the read, I promise you. So go get it, and support an artist.
As for her book, I'm going to buy my copy at the local independent bookstore. If you have an indie bookstore left in your town, go there and ask for a copy if this is your kind of book (and even if it isn't):
"It's every woman's fantasy to have a film-location crew select her hometown for the next movie starring a major cinematic sex symbol (in this case, George Clooney), and when Applewood, Long Island's elementary school, is deemed a possible site for Clooney's upcoming flick, the members of the upscale community's PTA go into hyperbolic overdrive to turn fantasy into reality. As members of the PR committee, it will fall to Maddie, Ruth, and Lisa to polish Applewood's somewhat spotty reputation when the producers come to town. Accomplishing such a massive public-relations coup would be difficult enough, but add Maddie's failing marriage, Ruth's clandestine affair (with the school superintendent, no less), and Lisa's alcoholic mother to the mix, and you have women facing challenges that make the typical Saturday morning PTA bake sale look like a piece of cake. With sexy characters, sharp dialogue, and snappy pacing, Meister's sassy, saucy debut novel could well turn into a movie of its own."