Friday, December 10, 2010

Old People

"Always be nice to those younger than you, because they are the ones who will be writing about you." ~ Cyril Connolly (1903 - 1974)

Cool old people. I know, right? Sounds ridiculous. But they do exist. Really! I know most of them, so don't go searching your local retirement village to find some, because you probably won't be successful. Anyway. Cool old people.

So two days ago, I got a call from (you guessed it) an old person who happens to be a dear family friend. She offered me $40 to help her help a friend (another old person) clean out her garage/storage unit and get rid of some of her deadbeat son's stuff. I accepted. Prior to heading over to help, I stopped at my Uncle John's house. Technically, he's my Great-Uncle. Technically, he's not related to me at all. He was my grandfather's best friend, and after my Opa died, he pretty much stepped in as the grandfather for my enormous family. He's done an excellent job. So I stopped by (it was on the way) to say hi and pick up some things he had for my mom. We wound up sitting on his back porch for an hour drinking iced tea, red wine (not together, ew) and talking about this year's crop of oranges. Because he has a citrus grove in his backyard. Not kidding. I've never purchased oranges. In my life. I've always just walked up the street and picked some.

Anywho, my Uncle John started telling me all this stuff about his Navy days back in WWII, and showed me this really cool carved ivory ball he bought in Japan. We started talking more and he told me more stories and all that jazz and I realized how cool he is. He's like, 82 years old. And still rockin' awesome.

So I went over to see Ms. Paula to help her friend. Now, Ms. Paula is technically Mrs. Baker, but when I was little, she was my dance teacher. She taught my sisters to dance. She's teaching my niece to dance. No little girl in a 5 mile radius of my small town that dances hasn't gone through Ms. Paula's class at least once in her lifetime. So basically, all of them know her. Her friend introduced herself as Ellen, and Ellen grew up in the 40s (like my Uncle John). She didn't catch my name very clearly so she called me "Doll" all afternoon. But you know how old people have a tendency to talk like old people? You know what I mean... But it sounded really cute coming from her. I like the endearments of the elderly. Unless they're hard of hearing. That just irritates me. They need to find a way to just give people new ears or something.

But then I started thinking about my Oma, who is seriously one of the coolest old people in the world. She has 22 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren, 8 kids, and has taken care of ALL of us at one point or another. Ever December, she spends the entire month (and often the months before) prepping for Christmas. She bakes, cooks, stirs, sifts, wraps, and basically makes Christmas for us. But she lets me come over and hang out and knit with her and generally get underfoot whenever I like and loves to watch Perry Mason reruns with me. Frankly, I hate Perry Mason, but don't tell her that. She gives me free chocolate so let's not ruin that.

I guess what I'm saying is that old people really are cooler than we think. Sure, a lot of them are crotchety and mean, but there are quite a few gems in the mix, too. Granted, I know most of them so the odds are stacked against you but still. Go find an old person, bake them cookies, and ask for some stories. You'd be surprised at some of the stuff you might find out.

And the quote at the top is impossibly true. But so many young people (given that I, too, am technically "young") don't talk to old people to get their stories to write about them. Fix it.

'Til next time,

Love all, trust few, do wrong to no one. ~ William Shakespeare


PS: Today's objective:
Train my niece to act like Reptar from Rugrats and stomp around the house roaring. To test this, we are going to the mall.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's Been a While

I'm back. It's been a while, I know. And I apologize. Not that anyone reads this regularly or is desperate for an update on my life and state of being, but it feels like an apology is appropriate. But, a lot has been happening. I left school, came home, spent some time in hospital, and now I'm sitting on ready, but rocking on pause. (That's an old, old pilot's phrase I've tweaked. The real saying is: "Sittin' on ready; rockin' on GO" meaning that they're ready to take off.) In taking a leave of absence from school, I've put my entire life on pause, it feels like. I don't know who I am when I'm not a student.

I find myself itching for an adventure of sorts. Or something. I feel like that saying, "When nothing goes right, go left." I want to start walking, and just keep going until I bump into something exciting. I need to go somewhere. I want to hug again. I want to do something other than run away from everything that seems to be attacking me from all sides. I need to do something a little spontaneous. Routine is good; my doctor confirmed this. But my routine as it stands now gets halted at around 11am every day depending on my work schedule. I get up, drink coffee, have my meds, exercise, shower and bam! it's 11am and I'm bored. Usually I'll have Kenzie. Usually she's napping between 11am and 1pm. Today I baked cookies. And then took her to the bookstore. And came home.

That's all my days seem to be anymore. I don't mean to sound whiny, I'm just at my wit's end of things to do with myself. Tomorrow, thankfully, one of those choices is being made for me. I'm helping a family friend help her friend clear out her garage. For money, thankfully. Still. It's little things like that that I want to do more of. Less sitting around the house chasing my niece around and a little more going out and getting outside and being away and experiencing things and then writing about them. I tried dedicating myself to one hour of writing a day. In the last 5 days, it hasn't exactly worked. But I look at it this way: if I finish the necessary stuff my mother outlined (getting up by 9am, exercising and showering and taking my meds) by 11am every day (unless I'm working), then I can take at least 1 hour to myself to disappear and write. And take another hour to spend knitting or crocheting or things like that. And then read. Maybe. I want to work on guitar, too, but I don't want to be too ambitious. I refuse to sell myself short, though.

Suggestions? I've never been able to come up with a solid routine and stick with it so this is a big challenge for me, guys. Whoever reads this. Yeah...

Probably more tomorrow. I hope. Let's see if I can stick to that one little thing...

Love all, trust few, do wrong to no one. ~ William Shakespeare


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Essays: More Formal Scribblings of a Future Essayist

I'm in my first "upper division" English class here at school. I'm really excited. It's called "The Art of the Essay." It's taught by a really brilliant woman. I'm in love. Allow me to explain.

I've been fascinated by essays and essay writing since last fall, when I took a personal essay class and wrote some really, really good stuff. I wrote things I'm really proud of as a student and as a budding writer in her own right. Now I'm taking a class that focuses solely on the essay as a form, and its rich history and its uses today and what all of that means. I'm unbelievably stoked. SO, I've added a new page! The page, as you can see, is called ESSAYS: More Formal Scribblings of a Future Essayist. I may shorten it. I have yet to decide. Anyway, each week she assigns an in-class writing assignment, so I will be posting them as regular blog posts, but if you miss one or want to go back (because I have so many avid readers and fans, right?) I'll also post them on the PAGE for essays. Aren't I smart? Yeah, yeah, shut up, Willow, I know.

So here's the first one. It was in response to an essay by Carlos Fuentes entitled "How I Started to Write," and I highly suggest reading it. At least part of it. He's not my favorite person since I'm not a fan of his personality, but his writing intrigues me. I hope you feel the same. Someday soon. We'll see. Cheers...

from: Art of the Essay

response to "How I Started to Write," by Carlos Fuentes 9/01/2010

Carlos Fuentes has a unique, yet definitive sense of self. When he finally figures himself out - a Mexican nationalist with a certain sense of justice - he then tries to make sense of what that means to him as he tries to identify himself as a writer. It happens when he is 14, in Chile, and realizes that his 400 page opus searches for a language that he finds his own. He realizes his urgent need to be a Spanish writer (linguistically, not ethnically. More on that later.).
His sense of self is strongly political, ethnocentric, and geographical. But he also beautifully identifies himself as a writer. He writes in Spanish. He writes as a Latino. He writes critically, with a situational-awareness I admire. He writes himself in a way that makes me want to keep reading.

My own sense of self is both definite and ambiguous, and certainly contradictory. I am at once childish and old for my years. Equally amused by make-believe and tea parties as I am by spending an evening in with a good book and my knitting. I work in the ever-advancing field of advertising - using new forms of technology every day - but do my own writing by hand or on my 1947 typewriter. My sense of self is heavily dependent on my sense of what I do. I am a passionate student. I am a writer. I am a reader. I am a reader who writes.
The writing I want to do is varied. I want to write children's books, chapter books, elementary fantasy, young adult fiction, memoir, poetry, music lyrics, essays, non-fiction researched works that combine personal anecdote with facts and my own observations. Specific to [The Art of the Essay, ENGL 463], I want to develop my voice as an author. Distinct from tone, I feel, which is dependent on content, but my way of phrasing, my kind of topics, my kind of words that speak and echo and mean more than they appear.

Love all, trust few, do wrong to no one. ~ William Shakespeare


Friday, September 3, 2010

Judy Moody: Puttin' Glendora in a Mood, Pt. 2

SO. To finally conclude my thoughts on Judy Moody taking over my hometown, the first two days were rather uneventful. HOWEVER. Days 3 & 4 were much more exciting.

Early morning of day 3, I got to work early (mostly just to find a parking space, secondly to scope out the set - I'm curious, not a stalker. Promise.) and explored a little. I talked to one of their security guys, and apparently I was missing out because MEGAN MACDONALD WAS IN MY SHOP!!! (Again, it's not really mine so much as my place of work, but I feel a sense of pride and ownership sometimes. Get over it.)

So, I ran in, tried to be cool about it, and there she was, standing next to my boss chatting like they were old buddies. She doesn't look like I expected, for starters. She was a little older than I expected, and wore glasses and had curly, slightly frizzy hair. She reminded me a bit of Mrs. Frizzle from Magic Schoolbus. To give you an idea. But a completely different body type. If that makes sense. Her husband was there, as well, and introductions were made. I have to admit, I was a little shy (to those that don't know me IRL, I am NOT shy), not because I was afraid or intimidated, but because I have this thing about meeting famous people that I don't want to make them feel self-conscious or more important than they are. I guess it has to do with getting a vibe that they want to be treated normally, and are just as excited as we are about things, so I try not to treat them like the Queen but rather like special guests from a foreign country who you want to feel comfortable instead of awkward. That was a really long sentence, I apologize.

Anyway, she shook my hand, and we exchanged pleasantries, and then I mostly continued opening the store as normal, turning on lights, speaking when spoken to, commenting on the book and otherwise keeping my mouth shut for fear of babbling like a baboon who wants her manuscript published. Ms. MacDonald was a very pleasant woman who seemed excited to be visiting, and promised to come back and sign our books for sale, which was exciting, but was needed on set.

Shortly thereafter, a small ginger kid was seen bopping around outside wearing the most ridiculously mismatched outfit I've ever seen. Yet it worked. She was wearing a blue shirt and brown shorts and blue-and-green striped knee-high socks and penny loafers. Did I mention she has bright red hair and an Australian accent? Meet Jordana Beatty, the 9 year old Australian bookworm who was cast to play the lead as Judy Moody herself. Unfortunately, I did not get to meet her myself.

Shortly after that, a small boy with blond, spiky hair came buzzing into the store with several adults tailing after them, wearing a t-shirt with bugs on it and khaki pants and asked me if I had any Star Wars books. Guessing at who he was, I led him over, and pointed out some promising titles. Then he turned to me and said, "I'm Parris, by the way. Or Stink. I like both names." I laughed, shook his hand, and then met his mother and several handlers. He seemed like a super nice little kid, and offered to sign all of our books as well. As himself. It was pretty entertaining.

After that, BlueChair became the regular hangout for some key members of the cast, specifically the kids. They were all completely polite and really sweet, not to mention fun to be around. Ms. MacDonald eventually came around and signed all of our books for us, and overall we were pretty busy pulling books and helping various members of the crew find things for their children and other small relatives. I found it very interesting that next to no one on the crew had read the books or even knew the film was an adaptation of a children's series. Disappointing and surprising and generally a bit disturbing. But maybe that's just this bookworm's perspective.

The next day the crew got a really late start, and the temperature climbed even higher (passing sweltering and going straight to Saharan), and the kids (Jordana and Parris, especially) spent almost all their time off-set in the store. Unfortunately, I worked night-shift that day so I missed the afternoon excitement, but instead got the evening surprise.

Zombies. Is that what you think when you think children's movie? Me neither. Yet zombies we had, and copious amounts of them, too. No, they didn't use any locals (that I know of, though they should have and I believe perhaps intended to), but they used our streets. I was very surprised to see quite a few really well made-up zombies hanging out outside the store once the sun started going down, and took up a stake-out position across the street as soon as I closed. I still don't know what the zombie portion of the film is about, only that there is a part in the Judy Moody movie that features the making of a zombie film. A movie within the movie, if you will.

And then they were gone. The next day (Friday), all that was left was clean-up, and they did it rather quickly. The cameras were packed up, the giant lights were shipped off, and the painting and sidewalk chalk was washed away or put back to its original condition. And life went back to normal. Didn't it?

Some people have asked me if my tiny town was changed by this event. I don't think it really was. We were starstruck, to be sure, and a little dazzled by the fact that a very large film was shot in part in our humble village, but we're the same people. We're still quaint, we're still tiny, and the only changes we expect is that they'll be back next summer to film the sequel.

And that's all this reporter has to say. So. What's your mood on the matter?

Love all, trust few, do wrong to no one. ~ William Shakespeare


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Judy Moody: Puttin' Glendora in the Mood, Pt. 1

I'm honestly not in the world's greatest mindset to be writing this, so bear that in mind, dear Dorothy, as you proceed.

So Monday and Tuesday (today) were more set-up days than anything, but I figure they're worth documenting. So some back-story is in order.

About a month ago, a rather intriguing character walked into the store. She had long, straight blonde hair (obvious dye job, but not in a tacky way), wore waaaaay too many bracelets (also not in a tacky way), and was in purple from head to toe (totally not tacky. In fact, my kind of woman if I was inclined in that direction.). Basically, the moment I set eyes on her I knew she was different. She walked right up to me and said, "I need to talk to the owner or someone in charge." This was, of course, the week my boss was on vacation and had left me in charge as the "manager" for the week and I was already feeling a little overwhelmed. Nevertheless, I spoke up and said, "Well, I'm the manager, how can I help you?"

"Well, I'm a location scout for the film Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, and I need to get your signature that you're cool with us being out there kinda taking over your sidewalk."

I wasn't okay with that, at all, but after she explained what was going on, I was pretty excited. They were going to be filming at the pet shop next door, and the restaurant, also next door, and at the pizza shop by the coffee place across the street. We'd be smushed in the middle. Yes, smushed. Smooshed. You get it.

OH. For those of you who don't work in children's bookstores, Judy Moody is a series of what we call Young Reader-Chapter Books. They're a little more advanced than young reader books (Magic Treehouse and I Can Read books like Dick & Jane), but not as full-on as grade school chapter books, such as the Ramona books or anything by Roald Dahl. Judy's a third grade girl with an irritating but adorable little brother, Stink, who has a series of misadventures through the course of the series. Stink has his own spin-off series, and the appeal is that Judy is precocious without being snotty, and realistic without being trite. "There's no mood Judy can't improve" the books say. It's almost true.

Anyway, so she said they were making a movie and would we mind if they spilled over in front of us equipment-wise and such. I called the boss, she was thrilled and said we'd be as cooperative as possible. So I signed. And we were.

They moved in on my quaint little town yesterday. They were trimming the gumdrop trees and flying American flags and there was an air of chaos, confusion, and excitement. It was just the crew though. And everyone asked me and then people started coming to me like I was the expert on what was going on. Seriously. I wanted to tell half of them to go bug the petstore lady! After all, she was the one getting her entire shop facade redone and painted and made-over. Not me. Oh well.

And then on Tuesday, the crew showed up and started stringing out power strips and extension cords and massive lamps that burned really hot and bright (it was already nearing the 100s, too). They had a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff.

That's all for now, I think. Thursday night I'll post more, when I'm sure there'll be more excitement.

Love all, trust few, do wrong to no one. ~ William Shakespeare


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Small Town Characters

I work and (sometimes) live in a small town. You've probably never heard of it unless you also call it "home." But, like all small towns, we have some small-towny things that often turn into stereotypes.

We have a million "mom&pop" shops. Technically, I work in one. Scary, I know. Antique stores, one-of-a-kind restaurants, novelty shops, places full of really random collectibles, an ice cream place, a pet store, nail and hair salons where all the old biddies in town gather to gossip and where the high school homecoming queen gets all done up for her big night - it's all here. The downtown area, especially.

But what I think makes small towns special are the characters that inhabit them. Think back to The Andy Griffith Show, where you had the sheriff, the deputy, the village idiot, the millions of mom&pop shops, the Boy Scouts, and Aunt Mae. When walking down the street, everybody knows everybody. It's actually a little scary. There are more elementary schools and churches than stop signs and lights combined, and there might be 1 bar within the city limits. It's still an article of contention between the neighboring towns and our own. Not even kidding.

But back to characters. I'm a writer, and as such I have a couple tenets in my writing I tend to focus on. Primarily, I tend to focus and emphasize characters, relationships, and character development. So, naturally, every person I see is a character. There are people I see every day, like my family and my boss, the people I only see at work, the people I only see at school, and the people I've only ever observed but never really talked to. I don't feel like delving into the categories specifically, but I will go over some highlights for you.

Since my family is a blog entry unto itself, I'm going straight for the people that tend to walk by my place of work whom I often watch through the windows as they pass. (Trust me, the grammar in the previous sentence is impeccable.)

One of my favorites is a man named Dean. He's in his late 60s, and stoops a bit even though he's really tall. He's got longish white hair and a long white beard, a deep voice and a standard uniform of Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts and athletic shoes. According to my sources, he's something of a Jack of All Trades. He worked primarily as an artist for a long time, then got into writing for school-age kids, started a few businesses, and even owned the local castle! (More on that later.) Now he owns the Pirate House up the street (no really, it's a house designed to look like a ship from the outside, and is decorated with pirates at Halloween. It's amazing.) and spends most of his days with a group of about half a dozen other men his age and type sitting at the restaurant next door drinking white wine and reading newspapers. They make the rounds around the Village, stopping at every restaurant in the neighborhood over the course of the week. Keep in mind, these are rich old men. Nice, rich, old men. Something like that. But every time he walks by the shop, I find myself wondering what he's thinking, what goes through his mind when he passes my window, what he's really doing staring off into space with a wine glass in his hand. Things I wonder...

Then there's Ate (AH-tay), our window washer. He plays guitar and I think really wanted to be a rockstar but grew up to be a window washer instead. It's funny and sad how strange the hand Life deals us can be. Ate has an opinion about almost everything, from the weather to spirituality to my taste in movies. Politics never come up. I have suspicions but no definite answers about that where he's concerned. It doesn't really matter, anyway. But he always smiles and waves at me when I pass him on the street and notices when we've used Windex on the never-ending stream of fingerprints our windows suffer. Really, I don't think he minds being a window washer. I mean that in the way that I wouldn't mind being a window washer. As in, he knows everybody, everyone likes him a lot, and he has interesting relationships with everyone he meets. He's in the prime occupation for a people-watcher, dealing with windows all the time.

Of course there's the whole gang at Classic, the coffee shop I'm in love with. No really, I'm gonna marry it someday. They're mostly college students, trying to make a living. It's funny to watch through the seasons who the seasonal ones are and who actually lives and goes to school here. They're all great, though. And know my drink by heart. That's a major plus to them.

There are other odds and ends, of course. One of the gals at the restaurant next door, Colleen, drives a convertible, dark blue VW Beetle and sometimes gives me free Dr. Pepper (in exchange for cupcakes). The ladies at the pet shop are mother and daughter, and the grandson of the owner comes in and plays sometimes. Chip, the Village Cat, lives there and basically owns the entire street of "Downtown." And, for some reason, I mistakenly called her "Merlin" for years. I have no idea why. The FedEx guy and the mailman are both really cool, but our UPS guy is usually different. Once, someone even tried to deliver dog treats to us and almost didn't believe me when I told him we were a bookstore and the pet shop was two doors down. Crazy...

We have a little stationary store down the street, too, with a post office annex in the back, where a little old man will take your packages and stamp them in front of you, and then walk you out to hold the door open, even if you're only carrying your purse. Of course, the streets are crawling with unsupervised preteens, wreaking havoc on scooters and skateboards. But what else is new? I know most of them by name, and if I don't, I know their parents. That's the kind of small town I'm talking about. More often than not, though, I know a kid's name but have no idea who his/her parents are. I'm affectionately known as "the bookstore girl" while my boss is the beloved "bookstore lady." No lie. We're full on You've Got Mail here, and we're all characters.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

At least, not until Tom Hanks decides to come and sponsor us personally because we're just as cute as The Shop Around the Corner....

Love all, trust few, do wrong to no one. ~ William Shakespeare


Friday, January 8, 2010

Diners, Dives, and Late-Night Food Fiends

Sorry for the excessive alliteration in the subject, but it made me laugh.

But yes! So about two weeks ago, I was down in San Clemente with my bestie, Miss Victoria. When I visit her, we've taken to visiting a certain restaurant called Harbor House. Harbor House is one of those quirky, one-of-a-kind places that's open 24/7, and all available wall space is covered with old movie posters and framed (sometimes signed!) pictures of old movie stars. You know, the good ones. You can get anything on the menu at any time - you want pancakes with a side of french fries and a chocolate malt at 4am? They'll do it. It's one of those places. It's popular with high school kids after football games on Friday nights, or on Saturdays at 1am after Prom. It's one of those places that families go to on Sundays after church, or where college kids go get coffee and omelets on Monday mornings with dear old friends.

I'm not sure when I became part of the latter instead of the former.

Everyone should have one of these places.

For me, it's been Denny's. I know, soooooo original, right? But it's really the only place in/around town that is open 24 hours and lets dumbass broke college kids dominate a booth for 6 hours when we order nothing but 2 cups of coffee and fries. It's not as original as Harbor House, but it's the 50's diner "shiny Denny's," which makes up for its otherwise distinct lack of originality.

Then there's Jerry's. It's a hip - rather pricey! - and delicious 24-hour restaurant that has great food, a great atmosphere, and is usually a prime star-stalking ground for the "Are Youuuuuuuu Famous!?" crowd. (You know who you are.) Jerry's is great if you had a free movie ticket and have extra money for food afterwords. It's also good for sharing the enormous desserts they have. Don't bother with coffee here - go straight for real food. It's good, but like I said - on the expensive side. Still, with 6 or more friends sharing a table and food and generally having a great time, it's a blast.

We need these places. We desperately need these kinds of places where we can just run away at 3 in the morning and have a cup of crappy coffee and just be somewhere other than where you used to be. If that makes sense. We need these places where we can write songs with roommates, take pictures with boyfriends, celebrate the end of a show with theater friends, and celebrate missed birthdays and all-nighters in the summertime. Maybe I'm blowing a tiny, tiny subset of a subculture out of proportion and making it a bigger thing than it actually is. Maybe I'm not. Maybe it's something we all need at certain times in our lives, and then grow out of, or back into. Or maybe we just come to them when we need them, and float on by the next day like nothing ever happened at all. Maybe.