Thursday, December 23, 2010

Walk This Way: Dabbling in Mall Walking

Although I'm a mere 29-years-old, yesterday I joined the ranks of senior citizens everywhere by undertaking my first Mall Walking session.  Yes, you heard me right.  Mall Walking.  Mall Walking is a physical activity where people walk back and forth through the long corridors of shopping malls to get exercise.  Malls actually open earlier than the stores within them just to welcome mall walkers into their confines.  I honestly always thought this was some kind of a joke.  Do people really do that?  And who the hell are these people?  Well, apparently, I'm one of 'these people', if one mall walk does a mall walker make.

To train for our 1,000 mile hike along the Camino de Santiago, mom and I have been adding long walks into our workout repertoire.  They range from about 10 to 13 miles and take us to the far corner of Sacramento - along railroad tracks, over levees, across bridges, through parks, down the cobblestone streets of Old Sac and past endless streets of houses, from cozy craftsman cottages to artsy urban lofts to regal Victorians.  However, now that the rains have come, our schedule has been a bit thrown off.  Now before you judge, it's not that mom and I haven't walked in the rain before.  I spent a great deal of the Coast-to-Coast hike across England eating rain-soaked sandwiches in the moors with muddy gators strapped around my ankles.  I know rain.  We have met.  Yet, that doesn't mean I would volunteer to walk through it if I didn't have to.  Which is why yesterday, when mom suggested we try mall walking for the first time, I thought, 'Why the heck not?  Count me in.'  

When we arrived at Arden Fair at 7am, the mall had already been open to mall walkers for an hour.  Yup, 6am!  Guess those must be the Extreme Walkers.  Just opening the doors to the mall when all the stores, themselves, were closed sent a thrill of excitement through me... like the time a group of friends and I spent the night in the Psychology Building of Sac State after breaking into the swimming pool... but that's another story.

When we got inside, I expected to see a flurry of canes and metal walkers with halved tennis balls on the bottom of the legs, but actually, these blue hairs are pretty spritely and swift.  One woman had this whole zigzag technique, weaving in and out of the kiosks that dot the aisles of the mall.  She looked like a human pin ball, only one wearing an extremely tacky Christmas sweater.  I will say, however, that mom and I were definitely walking the fastest.  If the other walkers were vehicles on a highway, we were race cars at the Indy 500.  The best part of the whole deal is the window shopping.  Man, there is this jacket at Forever 21 that would look great with my NYE dress...  Once the stores actually opened, we couldn't help but pop inside to check out sales.  There's nothing like shopping when the clothes are still organized and folded, the employees are still cheerful and there's no one else around.  It's what I imagine heaven to look like should it exist - my experience at the same mall only days ago as I struggled for half an hour to get out of a parking lot filled with crazed holiday shoppers being my image of the fiery depths of hell... should it exist.

The only downfall to mall walking - the Food Court.  Cinnabon and its magical cinnamon/sugar aroma nearly undid my entire 5-mile walk.  I resisted though.  Mom almost got sucked into the Pretzel Shop, herself, until we saw the employee sneeze, covering her mouth but not her nose, which hovered over a vat of bubbling butter.  Starbucks did get us, though, but when you're mall walking like a bat out of hell, you need some fuel, dang it!  All-in-all, a good rain-free time.  Think I'll wait until after the holidays though to go back and get that jacket...  I'll leave you with my favorite quotes from Wikipedia's 'Mall Walking' entry...
  1. "Mall walking in the United States is especially popular amongst senior citizens."
  2. "Mall walkers tend to be a crowd requiring little supervision."
  3. "After walking, mall walkers may well stay on and shop the stores or patronize the mall's food court."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Camino Mission Statement

It took me far too long, but finally, a few weeks ago I finished my pitch for the Camino Gypsy Chronicles.  Whether my travel blog gets picked up by the big leagues, or I end up hashing it out on this very site, it feels good to have some focus in my journey.  Granted, most things in life refuse to be put in boxes, but I've always found that good writing requires good editing.  A box isn't always a bad thing.  I mean, who wants to read stream of consciousness literature?  Or listen to a friend's insanely long, nonsensical dream from last night?  So in an attempt to not make my future blog of my Camino adventure a daily log of verbal diarrhea, I've crafted a mission statement as a self editor.  Here goes...


On April 8th, 2011, my mother and I will set off on a three-month adventure that could kill us.  An adventure we will undertake by foot, hiking 963 miles on the thousand-year-old Camino de Santiago (or Way of St. James) from Arles, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.  Scarier than any of the obvious perils of the journey - plummeting down the Pyrenees, bands of roving thieves, starving to death because of an ill-timed Spanish "siesta", refugio Staph infections, a misspoken word of French, my mom or I suffocating the other with a pillow in the night - is the fear of the unknown.  The blog I'm proposing, Camino Gypsy Chronicles, will be a story about that fear: facing up to it, battling it, kicking it with the heel of your hiking boot and hopefully, in the end, conquering it.

Facing the unknown each and every morning is one of life's most frightening truths.  When you exist mile-by-mile, footstep-by-footstep in a place far from home this fear becomes more acute and the question marks more defined. Is my body physically prepared?  Will I get blisters and be unable to walk?  Will we be able to find food each night?  A place to sleep?  Will we get sick on the trail?  Lost?  Do I have enough courage?  An open mind?  A strong stomach?  Will my 63-year-old mother and my 29-year old self be able to get along for an unadulterated 88 days?  Will we fight over directions, time schedules, religion, who gets the first shower after a hard day's hike, the last bar of dark chocolate?  Will the language barrier be too great even with my mother's knowledge of French and Spanish?  Removed from normal routine and alone with my thoughts through vast springtime landscapes, will what I discover about myself scare me to death?  Will I be able to get by without the comforts of home - my bed, TV, friends, cat, beauty products, car, Trader Joes?  Will the life I know be waiting for me when I return? Can I, should I and will I do this?!

Just as in everyday life, I don't have the answers.  I can read as many books and peruse as many websites on the Camino as humanly possible, stock up on all the essentials at REI, put umpteenth miles under my belt in training, make all the reservations I can in advance and recite positive affirmations until I'm blue in the face, but what makes a vacation a true adventure will always be the mysterious, frightful and magnificant element of the unknown.  The Camino Gypsy Chronicles will be a blog for anyone living in fear.  For those who let it hold them back from walking into the great unknown.  I wish to share this crazy journey of mine because maybe, just maybe, my quest to conquer my fears will inspire others to conquer their own.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

December's Television Challenge

I have always had a love affair with television.  When I was young, my parents allotted me a fixed number of viewing hours a week.  Usually, I'd try to save up my time for Saturday morning cartoons or Mousercise (if you've never Mousercised, you've never lived), but the trick was learning to love what my parents watched.  Parent shows meant extra hours of tube.  What were they going to do... force me to stay in my room every time they turned on the TV?  So began my friendship with Crockett & Tubs and Captain Jean-Luc Picard.  Not only did I have "Star Trek" trading cards (I may never get a date again after writing this...) but I had "I Love Lucy" ones, as well.  She was my queen.  My idol.  If I could grow up to be Lucille Ball, I would have won the life lottery.  I dreamt of making audiences laugh by stuffing too many chocolates in my mouth or drinking copious amounts of Vita-Meta-Vegamin.  I even named my first cat Lucy.

Today, I cringe when I hear people say "Oh, I don't watch TV" with their noses turned up as if simply saying those two letters is beneath them.  Even worse are the "I don't even own a TV"ers.  If you can't afford a set, that's one thing, but normally that line gets tossed around at hipster dinner parties as people try to impress one another with their non-conformity.  In my opinion, television writing has hit its peak.  "Mad Men," "Justified," "30 Rock," "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia," "Modern Family," "The Walking Dead," "Boardwalk Empire," "The League," "Eastbound & Down"... the list of incredible writing, acting and directing seems endless.  Sure, there's a load of crap out there, as well, but there's a load of crap in any art form.  Even I have been known to watch a reality show or two (ahem, "Top Chef"), so I try to withhold judgment.

But while I love the medium... and my new Sony Bravia... I have to admit it's become a bit of a crutch.  When you write for a living sixteen hours a day, nearly every day, the last thing you want to do is tackle your own writing when you have an hour or two off or, heaven forbid, pick up a book and ingest more words.  What I want is a stiff drink and back-to-back episodes of "Psych."  Yet, I need to enrich my own body of work.  I need to read the lonely unread books staring sadly from my shelf.  I have music I haven't listened to.  Letters I haven't written.  People I should make plans with.  Movies I should go see (at the theater, not on On Demand!)  Blog entries and scripts and short stories that are calling my name in the night, wondering why I've deserted them... why I've abandoned the characters I love so much.  This doesn't make me lazy.  It doesn't make me a bad person.  What it does is make me numb.  My love affair has turned into a drug... a very delicious drug... but a habit none-the-less.

I'm not going to do anything drastic.  You won't find me selling my Bravia on Craigslist anytime soon or giving up TV all together, like the friend who inspired this challenge in the first place.  What I will be doing for the entire month of December, and would like to challenge my fellow TV addicts to do, is to limit myself to two hours of TV a day, including movies both at home and in the theater.  To many of you that may seem like more than enough time, but when you add up the "Today Show" I flip on while answering emails and making my breakfast in the morning, the hour I watch at lunch so I can totally shut down my brain, the fifteen minutes breaks I take in between drafts to clear my head and the couple of hours I watch at night to relax before bed, its adds up faster than you can say 'dependency.'  And I know I'm not the only one.

Tomorrow morning it begins.  If there's anything I love in life it's a challenge, no matter how small.  And damn it, if I can climb Mt. Whitney in a day (self promoting plug), then I can control my TV watching.  If you decide to take this challenge with me, write a comment.  That way, we can feel like we're in this together.  Strength in numbers, friend.  Strength in numbers.  Come January 1st we can celebrate over tea and Tolstoy... or we can watch a "Gossip Girl" marathon instead.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Oh The Possibility...

I was watching some god-awful romantic comedy the other day (really none can compare to "When Harry Met Sally") and started thinking about possibility.  You know 'possibility'... that overwhelming feeling you get when you meet someone new and begin to image all the wonderful things they might be.  Sure, we make assumptions on them based on the way they look or what they do for a living, but there is still this fantastic, vast abyss of mystery we can't wait to plunge into.  Once you become better acquainted, however, 'possibility', that ephemeral little minx, begins to fade away.  It's inevitable.  A part of nature.  Unless the person you're seeing keeps their cards close to their chest the rest of their life, you can pretty much bet what flavor of ice cream they'll pick or that they volunteer at a homeless shelter every Thanksgiving or that camping isn't an option for a vacation or that they prefer vinyl over CDs.  Possibility is replaced by actuality. 

Sometimes this actuality is better than you could have imagined.  I believe some call this "true love."  Other times, actuality is just good enough... hell, no one is perfect, right?  And most of the time it sends you packing for the hills.  As in my experience, you learn that Mr. Possibility sitting across from you at the restaurant table is an aspiring actor, a psychopath, a name-dropper, definitely batting for the other team (this has happened to me twice.  One of the guys came out, eventually.  The other I ran into at the West Hollywood 24 Hour Fitness... enough said), is a Republican, smokes two packs a day, doesn't like movies, kisses like he's trying to eat your face, is a complete stoner, a cheapskate, a stalker who throws rocks at your dorm windows while screaming your name, lazy, waaaay too young, a former professional juggler, drinks too much, snores or even worse sleep walks, never learned that you have to wash your sheets (yup, I'm serious), has a kid and an ex-wife named Candy, or a girlfriend he decided not to tell you about, has a Tweety Bird tattoo, hates cats, lives in a pigsty, thinks reading books is too much of an intellectual endeavor, has a gambling problem, and so on and so on and so on.  But even with our long list of terrible past actualities, we keep coming back for one more hit of that possibility drug.  Why?  Because maybe, just maybe, this time truth will triumph over mystery.

Friday, November 19, 2010

8 Months And Counting...

Eight months from now I will have ventured into a new realm of life.  My thirties.  Duh-duh-duh...  But this is not a rant about fearing the future.  It's a rhapsody about enjoying my twenties until July 14 2011.  And how will I enjoy this fountain of youth to the thirst-quenching, pore-plumping, metabolism-boosting, delicious last drop?  What it really boils down to is reminding people, and myself for that matter, over and over and over again that I'm not thirty. 

Lately I have taken it upon myself to drop the terms "20 something," "twenties," "29" and the not quite as cheerful "late twenties" into casual speech.  For example, to the woman who carded me at the wine bar, "My i.d.?  Yes, I have it, one second...  Here it is, 29."  I grinned, showing off my lack of crows feet and smile lines.  Then to the guy hitting on me at the car wash who asked what college I was attending (bless his poorly mistaken heart) to which I answered, "Already graduated."  "Oh?" he asked.  "But you look so young!"  "Still in my twenties," I reply confidently.  To the producer on the conference call who wonders, "Do you have kids?"  "No.  I'm only in my late twenties," as if I don't know a soul in their late twenties who has kids.  Of course, one look at my Facebook friends list with nearly every profile picture now featuring babies and toddlers, and you'd call my bluff.  Then there's the article in Elle Magazine with wardrobe tips for women in their 20s, 30s and 40s, that asked, "What age do you fall under?" to which I responded giddily, "20 somethings!" even though the skirts were too short and the tops too tiny and the girls looked like they could be my little sisters.

Now these answers all had some kind of merit.  They weren't out of left field entirely.  But as the big day draws nearer I think it's time to get a bit more brazen.  I may, for instance, start saying my age along with my name when introduced to people: "Theresa.  29.  Nice to meet you."  Or in restaurants when the waiter asks if I want a second glass of wine, I'll say, "Of course!  I'm in my twenties!  I don't go to bed until the sun rises!"  So what if I end up crashing at 10pm and have a hangover the next day from only two glasses of Pinot... it's the declaration that counts.  To the creepy guys who ogle me when I'm out walking I'll cry, "Go ahead!  Take a good long look at the 20-something ass!"  Or to the person at the movie theater box office, "One senior ticket for my mom and, well, I'm only in my late twenties, so the standard  adult ticket for me, thanks."

Yes, I'm really going to enjoy those beautiful, youthful syllables while I can.  "Twen-ty"...  How they roll off the tongue so sweetly, speaking to me of late nights and dive bars and cheap liquor and empty bank accounts and bad dates and failed relationships and entry level jobs and vulnerability and low self-esteem and crowded apartments and... hmm, hold that thought... all off a sudden "Twen-ty" isn't sounding like such a great moniker.  Maybe I shouldn't throw it around town like confetti, after all.  Maybe, just maybe, I should start to say, when introduced to new people, "Theresa.  Almost 30.  Nice to meet you."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bartering 2.0

As I get busier and busier with work and there are fewer and fewer hours in the day to check off my to-do list, it's nice to know there's someone there ready to lend me a helping hand.  Yes, that's right, I have finally gotten myself a personal assistant.  I'm sure you're wondering how I can afford such an extravagance.  After all, I'm no Hollywood celebrity or superstar athlete or corporate hotshot.  I'm just a simple writer making a modest living.  So how do I pay for my newly acquired personal assistance?  In frozen yogurt, of course.  To be exact, a Eurotart frozen yogurt with blackberries (and on occasion mochi) from Yogurtagogo in Sacramento.

Now, the next obvious question is, 'where in the world did I find such a gem of a PA?'  It was quite easy, really.  All I had to do was look no further than the gene pool from which I crawled.  Yes, that's right, I'm speaking of my mother.  For a trip to CVS to pick up contact solution or a dry cleaning delivery or a deposit of paychecks at my bank, she collects one heaping cup of froyo.  Pretty fair trade really for any of us who live and die for the frozen dessert.  I get the hummus I forgot to grab at the Safeway, and she gets a pint of Eurotart.  This whole fantastic transaction has got me thinking about the days when people used to barter for goods and services.  A fur coat for perfume.  Eggs for milk.  Yard work for construction.  Two virgins for six goats.  And on and on and on.

With the economy the way it is (aren't you just sick of hearing that line?), it might be a good time for a bartering resurgence.  In fact, I'm publicly offering my writing services to anyone who cuts hair, does nails, drives a cab, leads a boot camp class, cooks, massages (not that kind, sicko), has theater or concert tickets or teaches banjo.  What can I do for you in the way of writing?  Well, I can write letters of complaint, church bulletins, party fliers, threatening stalker letters, marketing materials, pitches and love poems (although the latter will cost extra as it goes against my nature.)  But we need not limit the movement to services.  I can see people trading books, clothes, music, shoes, pets, apartments (anyone live in Bali?  I have a terrific flat in Sacramento you might be interested in trading for a week), cars, electronics...  Hell, boyfriend swapping is perfectly reasonable if, say, your friend's bf is a lawyer and you need someone to impress the folks at Thanksgiving dinner this year.  In return she can have your hot out-of-work musician boyfriend to make her look cooler at her high school reunion.  It's win-win.

As a way to get this system started I encourage anyone with LEGAL good and services they're willing to barter to please list them in the comments section on this post.  If there can be a reality show about swapping wives, then we can certainly start swapping DVDs, no?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Top Seven Worst Dates

"Whenever I date a guy, I think, is this the man that I want my children to spend their weekends with?" - Rita Rudner

Recently a friend suggested she set me up on a blind date.  The sentiment doesn't really scare me as it does most people.  Not because I'm brave.  Not because I'm especially open minded or a risk taker.  And certainly not because the prospect actually sounds fun.  No, blind dates don't scare me because I've already had so many laughable, cringe-worthy, 'did that really happen?!' dates in my life that nothing seems to phase me anymore.  In fact, if a date is going to be bad, it better be extremely bad so that I can at lest get a good anecdote out of it to amuse my friends.  So in honor of being back out on the market (I love this expression... makes me feel like a prize-winning pig), I thought I would air out my dirty dating laundry and share the top seven (I like an odd number) worst romantic rendezvous I've had the exquisitely painful pleasure to partake in.
  1. During a dinner date with a basketball player I met at a nightclub in Sacramento (this should have been a warning sign, no?) the guy... and I kid you not... actually fell asleep at the table as I was talking.  I mean, he literally dropped his head beside his brick oven personal pizza and slipped into REM.  This same guy then attempted to call me every other night for the next two weeks wondering why I wouldn't go out with him again.  Must have hit his head quite hard on that table.
  2. Here's the next scenario broken down into scenes, which is appropriate seeing as though it was a movie date.  Act I: Guy takes his retainer out at the dinner table and sets it in the middle of said table on a napkin.  My eyes remain fixated on the trail of saliva running from his mouth to the retainer as he tries to engage me in conversation.  Act II: In the middle of the movie guy realizes he left retainer on table and runs out, leaving me by myself at a particularly gruesome horror film.  Act III: Guy comes back upset, sweaty and smelling of garbage after having searched for retainer in the restaurant dumpster without luck.  He mumbles about the $500 he'll need to scrounge up to get a new one during the rest of the movie.  Needless to say, there was no Act IV.
  3. My first date in LA was with a photographer I met on the plane ride over there.  He was quite a bit older but looked like Sting so I thought I'd take my chances.  Unfortunately, the entire date consisted of him ranting about his ex.  What sparked this diatribe?  I had asked him how he got the bloody cut across his face.  Turns out she went to town on his cheek with her car key.  I spent the rest of the night looking over my shoulder waiting for her to seize me by the hair and smash my face into my vegan meatloaf.
  4. One guy actually had the nerve to call me an hour before our date and ask if his buddy who lived near me could pick me up and take me to my date's house.  This way, he wouldn't have to drive across town to get me himself.  His buddy who I'd never met.  His buddy who drove a pick-up.  I told him "sure", hung up and then called him back five minutes later complaining of a terrible stomach flu.  A stomach flue that lasted the three weeks it took for him to stop calling.
  5. I made the mistake of inviting a new guy to my office Christmas party.  He showed up wasted (to calm him nerves, he said) and then proceeded to brag to my boss during a smoke break on the restaurant balcony the very intimate details of our first date.  Thankfully, my boss was a woman with a bad date list of her own.
  6. A guy bit me.  I believe he thought it would be sexy.  Perhaps on some occasions.  But in the middle of a Mexican restaurant over a plate of enchiladas?  Not so much.
  7. I was taken on a date to a very chichi restaurant.  The guy I was with insisted that we order the sweetbreads, promising me it was a vegetarian dish.  I ate them, of course, trying to look the part of 'classy lady'.  He said, and I quote, "those are just mushrooms inside."  Later I learned the guy had forced me to eat cow thymus and pancreas.  I still haven't forgiven that one.
So there you have it.  The worst of it.  Funny how the running theme seems to be dinner dates.  Perhaps I need to cut eating out of the dating equation entirely.  Nah.  Without the bad, how can you know what's good?  And without the horrendous dates I'm infamous for, who would my friends turn to to make their own horror dating stories seem timid by comparison?  So I guess it's fingers crossed for a terrible blind date in my near future... 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Honking And Yelling

There are two ways Americans love to express joy.  Perhaps above all other options.  And those two things are honking car horns and yelling.  The heroine of joyful articulations.  Last night, after the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, the streets of Midtown Sacramento came alive with a cacophonous mixture of piercing car horns and blissful, unhindered outcries.  A mixture that wasn't at all unpleasant.  In fact, it put a smile on my face.  Sent my heart racing like on Halloween night when kilos of sugar surged through my veins robbing me of sleep.  The way the horns sliced the air like knives and drunken men of all ages sent expletives flying into the night sky like confetti had a thrilling, almost punk rock quality to it.  We're not just celebrating... we're making some f'in noise!

It's not just the sports crowd that get into this.  We dress up bridal vehicles just for the sake of making complete strangers honk and holler in celebration of matrimony.  Sometimes I'm even tempted to do it when a funeral procession passes just as a way to cheer everyone up.  Can you just picture a row of car following a hearse with everyone honking horns and whooping it up out the windows?  Would be one hell of a send out.  (That may actually have to go into my will.)  We stand at street corners holding up signs that sum up our political beliefs in catchy slogans in hope that others will agree and unleash a litany of honking.  We do it as parades pass.  Or when we arrive at a friends house to pick them up for a night of debauchery, "HONK! HONK! HONK!  Get your butt down here!  And bring the flask!  HONK! HONK!  Woohoo!"   

My first introduction to this celebratory audial expression of delight was in 5th grade when the 6th grade teacher led his class and our own out onto the sidewalk to demonstrate against the war in Iraq.  The first one, that is.  Bush Senior.  We held up handmade signs in our little Catholic school uniforms and screamed at oncoming traffic "Honk for peace in the Middle East!" like pint-sized UN cheerleaders.  With each pounding of a horn or holler out a car window, my excitement grew and grew.  To a near feverish state.  I'll never forget this one guy in a white convertible with a matching white suit and tight Jheri curls literally driving around the block in circles to up the ante on his fantastic rave of honks.  At one point (while stopped at a light) he jumped up onto his seat and started honking with his foot.  I kid you not; I couldn't make this stuff up.  I had no idea what the war was about, but if raging against it caused a grown man to stomp on the steering wheel of his Chrysler Sebring, then I was a peace crusader.

It was this man I thought about last night as the honking and yelling lingered well past midnight.  That if I had planned better I would be an hour and a half away in San Francisco with my head out the moon roof of my Rav4 tapping out "We Are the Champions" on my steering wheel with my boot heel.  Well... there's always next year.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Why Have Kids?

A friend recently revealed to me their reason for wanting to one day have a kid - to have someone to take care of them when they get old.  A sound argument, but not convincing enough.  I mean, isn't that what hospice workers are for?   I, for one, have never imagined having kids.  Ask anyone in my life with babies, and they'll tell you I DO NOT HOLD THEM.  It's not because I'm afraid I'll break them... a rather cliche excuse if you ask me.  It's because I hate having to put on the 'look at me, I have motherly instincts after all!' song and dance by cooing at them and saying gooey things in a whiny baby voice.  I just don't have it in me.  When I hold a baby it's more like Jeremy Renner in the "Hurt Locker" carrying a bomb he's trying to diffuse.  I know it's gonna go off... but when?  So I grasp it rigidly in my arms with a look of terror on my face and try not to make any sudden moves. 

Yet despite my inherent fear of motherhood and pudgy, diaper-sporting mini people, there is one reason and one reason only I would want one of my own - to have someone to dress up for Halloween.  Yes, that's right.  Just as my mom dressed me in fabulous homemade bumblebee and Snow White costumes, I too want to take my little person and slap a pirate hook on their hand... a tiara on their head... a wart on their nose... wings on their back... a stinger on their butt... 

Perhaps more importantly, I want to raid their candy loot.  When I was little I informed my mother that the only candy off limits in my stash was the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  And every year, without fail, I'd catch her in the act.  Once she just breathed on me and, smelling the unmistakable mix of chocolate and peanut butter, I called her out with tears streaming down my face.  'How could you?!  I told you you could have all the Almond Joys and 3 Musketeers!'  Another time I found the orange and black wrappers in her bed, crinkled up and stowed away under the sheets after I caught her by surprise.  Me: 'Mom, are you eating something in bed?'  Mom: (With mouth full)  'Hmm?  No.  (Swallow)  Not me.  (Another swallow)  Why do you ask?'  Of course, as a mom I'll learn from such errors.  I will only eat my child's Halloween Reese's when they're at school and will promptly burn the wrapper in the fireplace.  Or is down the garbage disposal better?  The shredder?  Should I just eat the wrapper too? 

So there you have it.  Blackheart's reasoning for having kids.  A selfish reason?  Maybe.  But as I was getting dinner at the Subway in Flagstaff, Arizona tonight and a short, chubby Mexican boy wearing a muscle-bound Batman costume came swaggering in (after I just finished reading "Little Bee" none-the-less!) I thought to myself, 'Who cares?  Kids in masks and capes are freakin' cute.'  The best part is, when I told him, "Nice costume," and he turned to me and confessed, "This is my favorite," I saw his mom's proud grin in the corner of my eye.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Breakup in Revolt

When you breakup with someone you're left with a heaping pile of nasty side effects.  For one, you have to sleep alone.  Actually, I quite like that.  More room to toss and turn, not to mention my cat appreciates the expansion of her down property.  Then there's the ache of never seeing the other's family, again.  And for a girl with a rather small family, I always feel the downsizing.  Sometimes, when the breakup is a doozy, you even lose friends as they sheepishly (or vehemently) choose battle lines.  Then, of course, when you live with the one you love you have to divide your stuff.  I actually have a friend who lost an entire hybrid car in that debacle. 

This time around, however, there is one small effect of my breakup that is nagging me above any of these more acute, life altering consequences.  Right before we moved back to California, as my ex and I were going through what to take and what to give away, I was talked into getting rid of my copy of C.D. Payne's "Youth In Revolt."  I looked at it longingly, its 499 pages and cheerful turquoise cover full of whimsical cartoons begging me not to let it go.  When I first read the book in high school I hadn't discovered something so wonderful since I tried my first chocolate croissant from La Bou.  I rarely hang onto books I've already read, but there was something special about this novel that said to me, "Blackheart, keep me on your shelf.  I'm a reflection of your inner self.  People will see me there and know instantly that you're a cool, angst ridden chick."  "OK," I would reply to my paperback friend with each and every move, from that first college dorm to my current home in Nashville.  "For you, anything.  Hop in this Pabst Blue Ribbon box I scavenged from behind the 7-Eleven and hold tight!" 

But now, its thickness and weight was creating a schism in our relationship.  It was too big.  Too bulky.  It had to go.  For the first time in 11 years, it wouldn't make the cut.  So reluctantly I compromised,  setting it delicately on the Salvation Army pile and asking Nick Twisp (the protagonist) to please forgive me.  But my heart ached.  I had told myself I would always keep it.  A book to give my fictional children one day to show them how interesting and hip their mother actually was at one time, long long ago.  I hauled it to the charity drop-off and watched as two burly men brutally tossed it into a metal cage full of yellowed, trashy romance novels and sad looking childrens' books that made "Revolt" look like a bright shining literary star. 

One month later, and I had not only lost one of my oldest, dearest books, but I'd lost my man, as well.  But the book, oh the book!  How it pains me.  So here's the possible lessons learned: 1.) Compromise sucks; 2.) The Salvation Army participates in book cruelty; and 3.) If he's the right one, the things you love will somehow find a way into the moving box.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Best Hangover Cure in Santa Fe, NM

Pops, the pups and I took a nice hike today on the Tesuque trail, ogling fall colors (yes, I took the cliche 'carpet of leaves' close-up with my BlackBerry camera phone) and the fresh powdering of snow from last night's mega storm that sent my cat running under the covers for fear of total annihilation.  On the way there dad decided he needed some fuel, so we stopped by Blake's Lotaburger  for a bacon/egg/hash brown/green chili breakfast burrito (I had the poor guy hold the cheese so I could take a few bites... selfish, I know.)  Now let me tell you, I wasn't hungover this morning.  Not in the slightest.  Not even one sip of Santa Fe Pale Ale consumed last night.  But, my god, if you're ever in Santa Fe nursing a head splitting alcoholic miasma, please do yourself a favor and get this stuffed tortilla manna from heaven.  After four days spent in Portland last weekend drinking my weight in micro-brews and reasonably priced vodka soda's (only $4?!  Are you North Westerners insane?!  Are your beards and too-tight skinny jeans stifling your Capitalistic good sense?!), it was like erasing every last sip.  Just five bites of this burrito worked like a sponge on the ole liver.  I feel reborn.  I feel replenished.  I feel sober...  I also felt a bit queasy, having just returned to occasional meat-eating.  But, man, was it worth it. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pros & Cons

Warning: This is a self serving blog entry.  Read at your own risk of boredom.

It dawned on me of late that I wasn't sure whether or not I actually liked myself.  Maybe it's a quarter life crisis (I could live until 120 right? Who am I kidding, it would have to be a 'one-third' life crisis)... or could be it has to do with my recent breakup... or maybe it's some larger existential dilemma.  Well, whatever it is, I decided to make a list of all the things that irritated me about myself and then sift through the muck and try to find some redeeming qualities underneath it all.  Let's begins with some of the cons (note: this list has been edited to protect the ego.)
  1. My fingernail polish always chips a day later.
  2. I watch too much TV.
  3. I can't cook to save my life.
  4. My bangs always curve in one direction as if by some magnetic pull.  And I could use more hair.
  5. I'm terrible at keeping in touch.
  6. My boobs are too big (and, yes, this is a con)
  7. I have never been good with authority.
  8. I prefer to read Stephen King over Yeats.
  9. My one freelance TV script was never produced.
  10. Babies frighten me.  As does marriage.  And spiders.  And failure.  And technology.  And any sport that requires balance.  
  11. I get stressed out very easily.
  12. I cannot focus enough to do yoga or Tai Chi or meditation.
  13. I don't have a literary agent, and I've been at this game for 5 years.
  14. I get my feelings hurt easily but am an expert at hiding it... which I hear is a bad thing. 
  15. I never know the appropriate amount to tip.
  16. I am quick to anger.
  17. I should have put money in an IRA about 10 years ago.
  18. I don't volunteer nearly enough.
  19. I am a horrific gardener.  Plants die at my feet.
  20. When I'm hungry I get very whiny.  And that's putting it nicely.
  21. I can't tell one bottle of wine from the next.  It's red or it's white.  Done.
  22. My feet are getting bigger from training.  WTF!!!!!
  23. I am never up enough on politics and world events.  Don't read the paper.  Avoid the nightly news.  Shameful.
  24. I find pleasure in cracking jokes about strangers.
  25. I'm afraid of heights.
  26. I am awful at romantic relationships.
  27. I have neglected my banjo.  And my Italian.  And my piles of books waiting to be read.  And this blog.  And my current screenplay.  And, often, my cat.
  28. I am extremely cynical.
  29. My teeth need whitening.
  30. Worst of all, I'm 30 and have no more answers about who I am and what I want than I did 10 years ago.
So considering this lofty list - a list that only scratches the surface - can there be anything in this Blackheart capsule I call a body/soul/personality worth celebrating?  Yes.  Two things.  There are two, count them two qualities about myself which have been there since the beginning and have only gotten better with time.   1.)  I am a strong person.  And 2.) I am an adventurer.  Both traits are very chicken-or-the-egg.  A symbiotic relationship.  To be strong in life you have to have a spirit of adventure, knowing that no matter what comes your way, there's still more to discover.  To be adventurous, you have to be strong, because you have to have the guts and courage to go beyond what's safe and secure and seek out the unknown.  Trite as this may all sound, it gives me hope to know that in the lengthy con list of life, I've got two things going for me.  And I guess, for now, that will have to do.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ode To An Art House Theater

Oh Nashville, Oh Belcourt Theatre, how this heart misses you. Long gone are your discounted membership tickets, blown from my hand like Autumn leaves from the trees. No more are your Whole Foods/Wino screenings with delicate crumbs of phyllo dough gathering in my lap in place of stale popcorn. Hence forth I'll never stare bright eyed at your full bar... yes, a full bar at a movie theater. Could life be sweeter? No longer will you offer me vintage cult faves and midnight horror or free screenings because I lied and said I was a Vandy student. Sorry about that, actually. How I would rejoice just to hold your vegan cookies in my hand and smell that blissful aroma of upholstery glue, urine and real butter. I miss the occassional broken spring reaching out and gently touching my back like a dear old companion. I weep for your noir festivals and your foreign surprises. Your fundraisers, indies and your weekend classic. Your non-profit status. The people with cool hair, skinny jeans and cowboy boots who filled your lovely red aisles. Who else in the world would have the gall to play "Big Trouble in Little China?" No one else. Just you, friend. Just you. Perhaps one day I'll return. Cuddle up in your spanking new - and well deserved - theater seating. Nibble a pumpkin cookie. Sip an icy cold beer (on tap!). And let your glowing, flickering daydreams wash over me. Until then I wander the street of new towns and new cities searching with hopeful eyes. Begging the universe, which I'm sure is run by movie execs, that I'll find a theater I can call home. Hoping for a cinema as beautiful and sublime. Hoping for my Belcourt reborn. Hoping for another you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Book By Its Cover

I have a very hard time not immediately judging people. It can be the way they're dressed. Who their friends are. The way they talk or hold themselves. Their job. Their taste in music. Etc... There's no situation where I'm more inclined to be judgmental than at the airport. That girl over there in the army jacket and Panama hat - a photo journalist who's never been able to keep a relationship. That man eating Burger King - a diabetic ignoring the advice of his doctor. That woman with the skinny jeans and baby bassinet - trophy wife who's been contending with a mistress ever since Jr. was born. The woman with frizzy hair rolling her eyes - a power player with little patience and a lot of ulcers.

I know it isn't right to judge a book by its cover. God knows what people must think of me. My old landlord thought I was a lesbian because I was always in workout clothes. I'm a hiker, okay? Not to mention my boob size throws people off, as in big boobs = lower IQ. I've been asked if I'm Jewish as people stare at my robust nose. I'm Italian, actually, thank you. Of course, having someone think you're one thing is a rather fun invite to prove them wrong. I don't mind it so much, so I continue to do it to others. Perhaps it's the writer in me. I like to make a story. Write a person's book before they can steer me otherwise.

However, just this last week, as I was flying home from visiting my dad in Santa Fe, I had the pleasure to sit by a rather giggly old woman. She was white, skinny, grey-haired and very jolly. I don't know why, but my first instinct was, 'she loves Glenn Beck, is old fashioned and probably spends her days petting her ten cats and crocheting Kleenex box covers.' (As I cat lover, myself, I can usually pick the type out.) Above all else, I was certain she was a conservative, Fox News type who I would have nothing in common with. I chose to keep quiet, digging into my book so I wouldn't have to make conversation, even though she kept looking at me when the Southwest stewardess/stand up comedian kept making jokes. I tried to laugh with her. I didn't want to be rude and the stewardess was actually rather funny - she kept asking us if we had any small jewelry items we wanted to donate to her. I mean, who does that? Genius.

But then, a miracle happened. As the plane took off, and the old woman settled in, she took out her book. And there it was. Was it Sarah Palin's biography? The latest Grisham novel? Hell no. It was a non-fiction account of the history of the Black Power Movement. I had to literally re-read the cover twice to believe my eyes. And man was she enthralled. She had proven to me with that hardbound piece of history, that you really can't judge a book by its cover. It may be fun... sure... but it's rarely accurate. Will I quit judging then, you ask? No. Of course not. I'm Blackheart. It's what I do. But I may start judging people by the books they read rather than their appearance.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Rule of Threes... Geez

While the Rule of Threes may seem like superstitious dribble, I can assure you from my experiences today that it holds true. My particular trinity evolves a series of embarrassing moments - nothing worth changing my name over and going into witness protection, but cringe worthy just the same.

First off, in Spin Class this morning, the teacher couldn't think of the 70s TV show that included the songs "Electricity" and "3 Is a Magic Number" (there's irony in that last one, no?). No one in the class could say, but then suddenly I remembered... 'Jailhouse Rock!' I cried out. The teacher agreed. Yes, yes that was it. It was only when I was walking to my car thinking to myself 'why in the world would a children's educational cartoon have the word 'Jail' in it?', that I realized it's actually Schoolhouse Rock. Okay, so no one was around for my embarrassing realization, but I could just picture the teacher googling the songs once she got home and shaking her head at me as her and her equally fit husband giggled.

Later in the day, as I shopped for a dress for the Capitalist Ball, I realized walking to my car that I had put my shirt back on inside out. Now it made sense why the ladies behind the counter were looking at me weird. I thought it was my sweatstache from the 80 degree weather we're having. Maybe it was both.

For my third embarrassment, at the next store I went to, this time at a different mall so as to start afresh, shirt on properly, I was standing in line, arms full, when I decided it would be a good idea to try a ring on that was near the counter. One by one things began to fall from my arms. As soon as I'd pick up one, another would fall. And on and on and on. You couldn't write slapstick like this - my comic timing was genius. Finally, for the coup de gras, my sunglasses fell off my head and broke into pieces. At least I provided entertainment for the skinny preteens in line (I'm I now too old for Forever 21?!) who snickered every time my well-endowed ass bent over.

So that's it... proof that the Rule of Threes is alive and wreaking havoc on the world. And we thought it was only reserved for dead celebrities...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Domino's Tosses Cardboard out the Window

I have to tell you about my new gastronomical obsession. As you've all seen on TV, Domino's has a new ad campaign aimed at airing out their dirty laundry. In the commercials they admit to cardboard crust and ketch-up like sauce, then discuss how they've bettered their recipes. I say bravo to anyone who actively seeks out constructive criticism, admits to their faults and then bravely works at improving them. And what a great theme for the New Year.

But what I love most of all is their new website where you can place your order then follow your pizzas in real time as they make their way from oven to quality check to the delivery boy's '89 Corolla. This "Tracker" device is inspired. My boyfriend treated us to two pies (only $5.99 a piece for 2 toppings) the other night in celebration of the NFL Playoffs. We oogled the screen in delight and surprise as our tasty slabs went from Prep to Bake. He was even able to contact the delivery boy directly to ask for Ranch dressing on the side. Isn't technology great!

You may think I'm making too big a deal out of this. But trust me, the end result was tasty and nothing like their old product. Now it's time to find a new pizza company to make fun of. Those awful Papa John's commercials are a good place to start...