Friday, December 25, 2009

Joyeaux No(way in h)EL(L)!

Bon Jour Mon Amis!
I had vowed not to blog at all while in France, just to try really hard to have an actual vacation. But I cannot resist the urge to share with you the miracle of Christmas Eve. Broken record: I can't stand Christmas. Yesterday, though, on the eve of, we tromped through Paris in the cold, cold, wet, wet, rain for THIRTEEN HOURS. At the Village d'Noel in front of the Eiffel Tower, I was accosted and groped by Pere Noel, who was very nice and spoke perfect English. It was actually a power hug. Warren (a Jew, just like Baby Jesus!) captured the whole thing with his camera. Later, we tromped up the Champs Elysees and on to Notre Dame where we heard the French Children's Choir sing Silent Night to a massive, SRO crowd. Today I am far too exhausted to whip myself into my usual annual holiday disdain. I'm just gonna sit and knit and eat.

Oh, and I was delighted to see that, after role modeling for the world for the past twenty Christmases or so, some of the world is catching on to my suggestion of non-celebration. Check out this article in the Times-- bonus points, my friend Hank Stuever, author of Tinsel, his new book about the insanity of Christmas in Frisco, TX, is quoted heavily in the story.

Joyeaux Noel Y'all,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

One of These Years...

Bubbles is going to stop putting up with my amusement at her expense. I think she's been plotting revenge for years. Get a load of at that pissed off look on her face. But she let me get away with it

at least one more time. And despite my usual holiday gloom-- or more likely courtesy of a plane ticket that's taking me out of here very soon (thank you Warren!), or possibly just that this damn holiday is so pervasive, I find myself doing odd things. Just one example: yesterday, as I was preparing my fix of caffeine, running the coffee grinder, I realized that I was stopping and starting it to the tune of Jingle Bells. It went like this:

Grind grind grind
Grind grind grind
Grind grind
Grind grind grind.

This reminded me of the year Kat strong armed a bunch of us, present company included, into going caroling with her. I must've been on Vicodin or still drinking back then, because I went along. With us, a number of foreigners. I hung back with the Bulgarians, the Italian, and a Frenchman named Ree-shard, a man who loved me to teach him American idioms like this:

It's as hot as two rats fucking in a wool sock.

The foreigners either had a hard time keeping up with the lyric sheets (written in English) or possibly just were flummoxed by the the whole activity. All I know is, at some point Ree-shard muttered, with a perfect French sneer:

Zheeeeengle bells? What is zees Zheeeeengle bells?

Yes, Ree-shard. I wonder the same thing. Grind grind grind, y'all. And Joie Noel. I'm outta here.
Feliz ano nuevo!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sad News: Andrea Burden 1969- 2009

Last week, Andrea Burden, a wonderful Austin artist, died very suddenly. She leaves behind two very young daughters. Like so many of us, she had no health or life insurance. The hospital bills need to be paid, and a fund has been set up to help take care of the girls. I ask that you please donate what you can to help.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chappy Chanukkah and All That Jazz

No secret that a) I can't stand Christmas and b) I do love the Jewish holidays (no baggage, lots of good food). I'm getting less miserable with each passing Christmas, especially since I started leaving the country just about every December for the past six or seven years. (Next week: Paris here I come.) I remembered today that last year (when I was stuck here courtesy of surgery recovery) I cheered myself up some by making an alternative holiday mix CD. I'm 99% sure I posted this list last year, but let's call it tradition (TRADITION!) I'm posting it again. I must say, upon revisiting this mix, I am quite pleased with myself. Please hold while I give me a big hug. I highly recommend you make this mix for yourself and listen to it good and loud.

Bah! (the mix)
1. Christmas The Who
2. Father Christmas The Kinks
3. Dreidel Erran Baron Cohen
4. Blue Christmas Bright Eyes
5. Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas) The Decemberists
6. Xmas in Jail Asleep at the Wheel
7. Little Drummer Boy Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
8. Driedel, Driedel Meshugga Beach Party
9. Feliz Navidad El Vez
10. Happy Christmas (War Is Over) Neil Diamond*
11. Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah Erran Baron Cohen
12. Do You Hear What I Hear Chaka Khan
13. The Chanukah Song Adam Sandler
14. Fairytale of New York Kirsty MacColl & The Pogues
15. Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem Bright Eyes
16. Dreidel Jingle Punx
17. What a Friend We Have In Jesus Tiny Tim
18. Baby, It's Cold Outside Tom Jones
19. Christmas Time for My Penis The Vandals
20. Heat Miser Lushy
21. Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah (Hora) Brave Combo
22. Don't Shoot Me Santa The Killers
23. Chanuka Jingle Punx
24. White Christmas Stiff Little Fingers
25. You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Thurl Ravenscroft
26. Silent Night Jingle Punx
27. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) Joey Ramone
*a nice Jewish b-oy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Picture This!

Good lord this town is more fun than sixteen barrels of drunken monkeys. As ever, I've been running around too much to actually slow down and blog with any regularity. I mean, blog here. I am busy daily cranking out new posts for my JetBlue JetAustin gig. Here's a link to my glowing review of East Side Cafe, which is SO AWESOME. And now, I resort to pictures of what else has been going on, to show you what thousands of words couldn't capture even if I could find the time to write them. (Okay, I will throw in a few captions.)

Today, I went to Joe Cooks for lunch, to hang out with my buddies Connie and Doris Ann, who were making the most beautiful cookies ever. Joe Cooks is this catering place at MLK and Chicon. A few months ago, they also opened a cafe-- same location-- called Joe's Place that only offers lunch, M-F, 11-2. Besides the menu, they have Especially Special Specials, which means they invent new and great stuff to try out. I went for the veggie lentil soup and a fresh veggie sandwich on homemade bread and it was magnificent. Y'all need to check this place out. And Connie, who is one of the owners, is looking to do events at the space and in the groovy backyard. So I'm going to say it here-- the first one of you to throw your wedding at Joe Cooks, I'll give you 50% off my officiant fee. Think about it.

Last Friday, I threw Henry a surprise birthday bowling party. Just what every nineteen year old wants-- his 45 year old mom to call all his friends and then drag him to a bowling alley in the middle of the day and pretend that it's just going to be Hen, Mom and Warren, knocking down a few pins.

Saturday, Warren and I got our candyasses out the door. I was having serious cabin fever and even though it was below 50, we convinced ourselves to walk around Town Lake. This is Training For France, as I seriously doubt they are going to turn up the global warming for me and heat the country up to my preferred 85 degrees F. We stopped to roll in the grass (not a euphemism) and look up at the sky (that tree is shot from the ground up.) And we listened to our separate iPods-- Warren is totally addicted to his new iTouch. This, after mocking my iPhone for nearly two years. Ha, I told you, Warren!

Saturday evening, Warren and Garreth and baby Z and I joined Ann Woodall at Blue Genie Art Bazaar, which is happening over at the Monarch Event Center. Ann's got a booth up-- her cards (featuring her photography) are most excellent, as are her Mixed Media crocheted hats. (Okay, so they aren't mixed media, but they are really wild and warm and wonderful). Ann and I posed on the big Jackalope in the lobby-- Blue Genie has a bunch of really cool sculptures for sale, including enormous sushi.

And today, Rebound, the dumbest dog in the world (but so CUUUUUUUUUTE) ate half a dollar bill. Not to be confused with the yogurt she rooted out of my bag yesterday and ate (that was actually sort of clever), or the expensive skein of yarn she chewed on until it was totally tangled. Warren thinks I'm the one who needs training, as in don't leave out dollar bills/yarn/yogurt. I think Warren needs to shut his piehole.

As for that lovely photo at the beginning of this post? I call that one: Isn't it GREAT living with a photographer who captures every single moment? I'll spare you the shot of me on the john with the dog sitting at my feet, but trust me, it exists.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tis the Season and All that Crap

Well, if you ask me, it's the most shittiest time of the year! Actually, miraculously, so far my holiday-induced depression has remained at bay. I am hoping it does snow today, though I would prefer for that to happen after 6, as I have some driving to do before then. This is a random post, not much to report except, OH YEAH:

Warren is taking me to Gay Paree for Hanukkah!

That's right, we are spending two weeks in France, starting very soon. We've got a week on the Mediterranean and a week in the City of Lights and I am peeing my pants in excited anticipation. I can't wait to get a Joie Meal at the Louvre for starters. And maybe a side of Freedom Fries.

Here are a couple of pics-- how relaxing it is to have a domestic partner with a surgically implanted camera in his hand. Below we have Hank Stuever and me at his recent book signing at BookPeople. And me and my little twin friends. And me receiving a surprise award at last night's Austinist holiday party. I also was the temporary owner of a super kickass hat. When it was my turn at White Elephant, I chose to steal the hat from its original recipient rather than open up a new gift. I later suffered karmic justice, as the hat was stolen from me. Goddammit! I want that hat back.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hank You Very Much! Mr. Stuever is Comin' to Town...

Seems like every week or so lately I put up a post announcing that one fabulous writer friend or another is coming to town to do a book reading. I am SO happy for and SO proud of all of these amazing authors I get to call friend. The latest fabulous news is that Hank Stuever will be here tomorrow-- Sat, Nov 21st-- giving a reading from his new book TINSEL, at BookPeople. Please note the time on this is 3 p.m., not the usual time, which I will not list here, because then you'll get all effing confused and show up at the wrong time. So, repeat after me:


I could tell you enough wonderful things about Hank to fill up a book of my own. Some of you might remember-- how could you forget-- that HS used to write for the Austin American Placemat before taking off a decade ago for The Washington Post. Hank was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer and I believe both of those occasions were before his twelfth birthday. Though he was robbed both times (once by, ick, Rick Bragg...) believe me, he can write circles around the rest of us mortals. So funny, so insightful, so genuine, so... well, so Hank Stuever.

Hilariously (or insanely?) enough, Hank spent three Christmas seasons up 'round Dallas, examining folks up their and their holiday wackiness. TINSEL is the result of those months. I can't wait to get my paws on a copy. So please do join me in welcoming the man, the myth, the anti-elf.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh What a World! (Rufus and Me)

Okay people, THIS is what I'm talking about. Spike. Rufus. Together at the hip. His arm around my shoulder. My heart: thumpety thump thump thump. What is it about hot gay men who can sing and look great in hose? I mean-- my oh my oh my!

Warren and I got our Rufus tickets months and months ago and I'd been counting the seconds. We caught last night's show at the Paramount and I could just eat Rufus up. Knowing he was in town, I figured he'd be doing an in studio at KUT and I was right. I do a little bit of this and that for the station time and again, and so was blessed-- I mean BLESSED-- with the chance to be there, in the flesh, while Rufus played. This also happened last time he was in town. I brought him a couple of TAKE ME BACK TO AUSTIN TEXAS (RIGHT NOW) T-shirts-- which, aside, I am still selling so if you want to own one LIKE RUFUS, click here for details-- and, though I'm not big on collecting autographs or begging for photo ops, politely asked if he'd pose for a pic. As you can see, he said yes!

Bonus points-- another guy walks up and asks if I'm me and I say, "Are you Matt Reilly?!" And Matt Reilly says, "Yes I am!" So here's a picture of Matt and me. What a glorious day. (You might have seen the piece I wrote at the Austinist about Matt.)

I have to say though, that John Aielli outdid himself with the stupid commentary this morning. He actually said something to Rufus ON THE AIR no less, about how you "don't even have to listen to the lyrics" and also something about how Rufus isn't technically proficient. OH MY GOD JOHN SHUT UP!! I actually went over to Rufus's guitar tech, Kelly, and apologized to her on behalf of this idiocy. Other than that though, awesome day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

TaDa! Spike Takes a Job!

Well, well, well... it's a long story. Months ago my friend Jim sent me a link for a writing job he found at Craigslist-- it was a blind ad, asking for a blogger but not mentioning the client. I applied, and was sent a writing test. Odd to audition for a writing gig what with a forty page resume listing 27 years of experience, but whatever. I actually had a good time creating what I hoped would be the "winning" entry-- it did feel like a contest and I am one competitive mofo.

Time passed with no word back. More time passed. Then I got a note-- the field of 200 had been whittled down to 3. I made the short list. Next stop: the interview. Then more time passed. Still more time. I finally let curiosity get the better of me and asked them what was up. Well-- I got the job.

I'm now doing a blog for JetBlue Airways, letting folks know all the cool people/places/things Austin has to offer. It's been a pretty intense learning curve-- not so much of a brain squeeze but more of a time management thing. At the same time I got the gig I was still wrapping the first draft of my latest book, plus I had a bunch of little freelance gigs to wrap. Then there was the trips I'd planned long ago. And then, courtesy of airplane air and pure exhaustion, I got sick. Really, really sick. Two weeks worth of sick. Oh, and then there were the weddings-- can't call in sick to those.

This week, the blog launched. You can check it out here.

If you have ideas for things I should mention, please email me at That said, as part of my plan to never get so exhausted and sick again, I'm trying to institute an "answer emails when I can" policy, so if you don't hear right back, that's just me trying to take care of me.

Hope all six of you have been well in my absence. And Jim? Thank you SO much!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Born to Run: McDougall (not Springsteen)

Yay! My friend Chris McDougall is in town for a running conference. Chris is the author of the -- haha RUNAWAY-- NYT Bestseller, Born to Run. Lucky us-- he's going to take a break from conferencing long enough to give a reading at BookPeople on Wednesday, November 11th, at 7pm. I'm guessing it'll be packed, so get there early.

Here's a clip of Chris on the Daily Show this past August.

Trust me-- even if you don't run, the guy is amazing, hilarious, brilliant, and so worth coming out to hear.

See you there.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hope Edelman Book Signing! Wed Oct 21st: BookWoman

Hey Y'all,
My old friend Hope is coming to town. She'll be doing a signing and informal chat at BookWoman tomorrow, Wed, Oct 21st, to celebrate the release of her latest book, The Possibility of Everything. I'll be there, too. And if I get my shit together, there will also be cookies-- not that you need more enticement than the Spike & Hope show, but still, cookies are nice. Here's some info:

WEDNESDAY, October 21st, 2-4pm

:: Booksigning & Informal Convesation :: with Hope Edelman ::

Author Hope Edelman will be at Book Woman on October 21, 2009 from 2pm-4pm to sign copies of her new book, the Los Angeles Times Best Seller, “The Possibility of Everything”. 

In this riveting new memoir, Edelman, the New York Times bestselling author of Motherless Daughters, Mother of My Mother, and Motherless Mothers, chronicles the unforgettable trip that she, her husband, and their 3-year old daughter, Maya, took to the jungles of Belize, in order to consult a Mayan healer about Maya’s destructive imaginary friend. Examining how an otherwise mainstream mother and wife finds herself making this unorthodox choice, “The Possibility of Everything” chronicles the magical week in Central America that transformed Edelman from a person whose past had led her to believe only in the visible and the “proven” to some?one open to the idea of larger, unseen forces. A deeply affecting and beautifully written memoir of a family’s emotional journey, it explores what Edelman and her husband went looking for in the jungle and what they ultimately discovered—as parents, as spouses, and as ordinary people—about the things that possess and destroy, or that can heal us all. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Office of Good Deeds: Call for Help

Very sad news. Last week, Jon Pettis, a member of Bankrupt and the Borrowers, died in a freak tragic house fire. His roommates, in addition to losing their friend, also lost everything they owned. A new house has been located for them. I contacted the guy in charge of helping them acquire household goods and he said yes, they still need stuff. That said, they are also receiving a lot of stuff. I'd like to help them fill in the gaps without too much overlap-- you know, they are sorting through so much emotionally that I don't want to drop off fifteen mattresses if they only need five. So what I'm asking is, if you have something you can donate-- anything from toiletries to furniture to kitchen ware-- please let me know what you have and if you are able to get it to me or if I need to pick it up. Email with your info.

I will then send the compiled list to Gene and once I know what is truly needed, I'll let you know if I need what you have.

I would like to take a selfish moment here and note that I am totally snowed under with a book deadline, a new job, and about eighty freelance deadlines. So if you don't hear back from me right away, please know I am listening but I might not be able to reply until next week. Also, if you can offer to help pick up stuff from donors, that would be awesome given my insane schedule.

Below are two links-- one a brief story about the fire. The other takes you to the band's website. OGD likes to operate more with goods and services than cash. That said, if you want to make a financial donation to the band, the second link will get you to a Donate button.

Also, my friend Ross, who lived a couple of doors away, is in the beginning stages of getting a memorial for Jon set up down at Town Lake. If you want to donate to that cause, let me know and I will connect you with Ross.

Please help spread the word.
Thank you,

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Moment Seized!

Warren and I had overlapping awesome news this week. Bear in mind that I'm a workaholic that loves, loves, loves being at the keyboard as often as possible, while Warren is not a workaholic, he's the nap king. (This is not to say Warren is lazy, he just prefers to not be in somebody else's office when he can be working on his house and napping regularly.)

So the good news is, Warren quit his job this week and I got hired to start a new job, which I'll tell you more about soon. We're equally thrilled. The funny thing was, we had precisely one day of overlap where he was off his first full day and I had a day of no appointments, allowing me to play hooky from my deadlines. So we ran away for a day, driving 250 miles round trip from Austin to Hearne to Sommerville Lake for a picnic. It was SO GLORIOUS. I love, love, love a good road trip.

When I told Warren about my experience in Maine with the loupe (which I wrote about for my Austinist column this week), he gave me my very own loupe, which we took with us and used to examine all sorts of little bitty things along the way. We also stopped to take in grand beauty, like the cotton field in the picture above.

We discovered the power of prayer in Hearne. And also, we found this window display (below) featuring two ginormous shrimps attacking a hamburger. I think I will use this image to inspire a sci-fic screenplay.

In Hearne, we also took a five minute tour of the weekly newspaper office. The publisher happened to spot me on the sidewalk and invited us in. As you can see, the paper is called the Hearne Democrat-- singular-- which led me to inquire if this means there is only one democrat in the town. The publisher denied that, but I'm not so sure.

We spotted a (wo)mannequin impersonating Marilyn Monroe, so we took turns imitating the (wo)mannequin and, as he so often does, Warren out-posed me. As the loser, I was locked in the pressroom of the Hearne Democrat with two ginormous shrimp for an hour. Ouch!

And no Texas road trip is complete without a stop at-- I think Larry McMurtry might've coined the term for DQ's-- a "Texas Stop Sign." We got a medium dip cone and it was MAGNIFICENT. A great appetizer and a good thing we got it, too, since we didn't wind up eating our spectacular picnic until damn near dinner time.

I'm a huge fan of a perfectly packed picnic, so that was my job. I boiled us up some eggs from a local farm, cooked up some butternut squash ravioli which I enhanced using basil from my garden, parmesan, and some fresh ground salt and pepper. We had locally made fig preserves spread across fresh baked (locally) whole wheat bread and topped with organic raspberries, which we also used to top the organic dark chocolate (dotted with dried blueberries). I also brought a tin of albacore (bonus points: I remembered the can opener), some dried tart cherries, and a Mexican Coca Cola. The gnats were out in full force-- it was like a blizzard. So we didn't last too long at the park, just long enough for a little Frisbee, some Hula Hooping, and the Vewy Womantic picture at the top of this post (and yes, I do know about my hair-- forgive me, I'm trying to grow it long again and it's a Damn Process). Some pictures of our splendid meal:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

TAKE ME BACK TO AUSTIN TEXAS (right now): The T-Shirt

Hey Y'all,
Awhile back I wrote a column in which I mentioned how, when Henry was very little and we were traveling, sometimes he would get extremely tired and cranky, at which point he would demand: TAKE ME BACK TO AUSTIN TEXAS RIGHT NOW! Sometimes, he'd even say this when we were in Austin.

To this day whenever I travel, no matter how much fun I'm having, I always have at least a moment or two of TMBTATRN. So I decided to make some t-shirts. They just arrived, hot off the press. They're 100% cotton American Apparel, printed locally. I only did a small run to see if the rest of you are as enthusiastic as I am about our fine town. I've got S, M, L, and XL in black with white print (see above photo) and white with black print (see below photo and please, save your commentary about my boobs.)

I'm thinking/hoping they won't last long-- we're selling them at ACL. So if you want to order one, email me quick at They're $20 flat, with a $2 postage fee if you want me to mail you one. (If you live in my hood, you can just pick yours up at the house.)

Please help spread the word.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nacho, Nacho Dog-- I Want to Be Your Nacho Dog!

Hello Everyone,
Haven't been posting much. Was away in Maine for a glorious week of knitting and hiking. I'm going to write all about that for my Austinist column tomorrow. But today I am here to tell you about Nacho the Dog and Nacho's human creator, Emma Virjan.

Emma lives in Austin and Nacho lives inside Emma's head. He also lives inside the book Nacho the Party Puppy. And, not many of us can claim this, but Nacho has his own theme song written and performed by Asleep at the Wheel's frontman, Ray Benson.

I wanted to let you know that, besides gifting us with Nacho, Emma is also a designer who specializes in working with small companies to create company identities, brochures, and on and on. She's got a little room coming up in her schedule and I'm putting the word out here so if you need some designing or know someone who does, you can check out her website, VirjanDesign and give her a holler.

More soon...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Warren from Yer Main(e) Woman!

For the second year in a row, my annual knitting retreat smashed head on into Warren's birthday. And this year is a milestone-- War-War is officially 20 today! But he said it was okay for me to go far, far away and leave him all alone for his birthday, that he'd be just fine, sniffle sniffle. So thanks for that, Warren because I AM HAVING AN AWESOME TIME AT KNITTING CAMP!!!

If anyone is interested in just what we do up here at knitting camp, you can click here and find out. Or at least check out the most excellent pictures.

In the meanwhile, please join me in wishing Warren a super super happy happy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Super Bitch!

Timeline: Atlanta, GA Sunday, Sept 20, 2009, 9:12 am est

My first alarm went off at 3:45 am Sunday morning, and I obeyed it, mostly so I could get across the room and shut off the second alarm before it sounded. Alarm one, courtesy of Apple’s superior iPhone functioning, emits a very pleasant sound, not so pleasant as to be easily slept through, but certainly not as harsh as my ten-dollar clock radio.

The plan was to be in bed (or at least try) last night no later than 8:30 pm, in the hopes of getting my absolute bare minimum necessary seven hours of sleep. I had a wedding yesterday, the very last thing on my calendar before my weeklong vacation officially started. I wasn’t that thrilled with the prospect of this wedding—not only because I’m getting pretty sick of working seven days a week, every week, for months on end. But also, the mother of the bride would only agree to hire me if I promised to wear different shoes than I usually do.

She hadn’t actually seen the shoes I usually wear, but I’d described them for her: black leather thong/sandals. They’re actually very nice and, more importantly, they allow me to walk without a limp down the aisle. My right foot is significantly bigger than my left, courtesy of the surgery I had to restructure it back in 2005. I never was one for high heels or, really, any kind of “girly” shoes. Comfort first and all that.

But I went over to Sears (evoking more childhood memories than I have time to recount here) and grabbed a pair of twenty-dollar, faux leather, imitation ballet flats. Frankly, they looked dumb compared to my sandals. But, whatever.

Annoyed that MOB was so picky about the appearance of my feet, I decided I would dress however I saw fit for the test run. Thus I showed up at the rehearsal Friday with my arms bared, revealing my half-sleeve tattoos, hoping to make some kind of point.

This was my first time to meet the groom—that was something else that had been off-putting. I like meeting both bride and groom in advance. But here is where the tide turned. He was incredibly cheerful, and it was very clear that he and his bride were just delighted to be marrying each other. Their happy mood lifted dissipated what every irritation I had felt earlier.

Saturday, I lollygagged at Warren’s for most of the morning. I knew I had a lot of work to get done pre-wedding, but I wanted to spend time bonding since no matter how much I love traveling (and I do love traveling), the initial departure brings a deep sense of pack separation that unnerves me.

Eventually though, I got down to business. I ran a few errands, walked the dogs, pounded out 2,000 words, and did a little last minute packing. I take great pride in packing—I travel light, rarely forget anything. There is always a short “FINAL THINGS TO PACK” list that I take care of at the last minute. In this case, I made a mental note to switch out my wallet from my purse to my backpack after the wedding.

The wedding, it turned out, was splendid. I had the benefit of a wedding director, Deidre. Most weddings I do, I’m the only one running the show. From time to time there will be a director, which takes a load off of me. In this case, Deidre was so pleasant, so organized, and so no nonsense about all the details, all I had to do was trot up the aisle in my silly new shoes, sprinkle the magic dust, and command groom to kiss bride. I mean, Deidre even had prepared a mock license, which she filled in with all the details. All I had to do was copy her answers onto the real license, just like Bobby Connelly used to copy answers from my test when we were in high school.

As I prepared to leave, I exercised great caution. I did this for a few reasons. A) Mercury is in retrograde. B) I get so giddy at the prospect of vacation I get distracted, so I make myself be hyper aware C) the parking lot of this particular venue was full of trees. Really. Not organized trees. Trees scattered here and there.

I backed up with tremendous caution, watching not only for trees but cars. Slowly, slowly, slowly and then… BAM! Where the hell did that tree come from? The noise and the impact startled me, but inspection of my bumper revealed no damage, even though it’s more like a picture of a bumper than an actual bumper. I did note that everything on the dashboard (we are talking a lot of shit) went flying. Relieved that I wasn’t going to have to file an insurance claim, I proceeded home, worked in a quick plate of spaghetti and three rounds of Boggle with Warren, and then, off to bed.

But wait. Time to transfer wallet. Look in purse. No wallet. Look in purse ninety more times, as if looking will manifest missing wallet. Wallet does not manifest. Wrack brain. Now where was the last place I had it? Memory led me back to the wedding. I’d hidden my purse under a table near the dj booth to keep it out of sight during the ceremony. Maybe it fell out? The wedding was a half hour away. It was 8:30. This was going to mean getting to bed at 10 if I was lucky.

I looked in the car. No luck. I sighed, resigned to make the fifty-mile roundtrip drive.
Then I remembered Deidre, the uber-organizer. She’d sent a list of every single vendor at the wedding. I started texting them all —will you look for my wallet? While I waited, I decided to give the car one more go over. Now, I put on my headlamp, a recently acquired knit-geek tool.

You see, I was visiting with friends recently, and Steve put on his headlamp to find a book on his son’s shelf. When I saw this thing strapped around his head, I laughed in his face. “That’s ridiculous,” I said.

He told me sure it was, but really I should try one. So I did. AMAZING.

Within days, I had my own headlamp. The first time Warren walked in and saw me clutching my knitting with my locomotive-engine look blinding him, he burst out laughing. It’s true, I look stupid when I wear it. But it has changed my life.

So I strap it on and head out. I go through the car again. I sift and sort and sift and sort. Nothing. And then, the trusty headlamp reflects back a hint of something silver. Closer scrutiny reveals this is my wallet, which looks a lot like a cigarette case. Apparently when I smashed into the tree, the wallet was ejected and landed down the side of the passenger seat, where it settled, almost completely out of view, down a crack.

Which is why I am here today to recommend that you all get headlamps and those of you getting married hire Deidre.

In the meanwhile, I’m sitting here in Atlanta. My pack-separated anxiety has already mostly subsided. I got in some great people-watching on the flight from Austin. Lots of Longhorn fans, and more than a few redheads (I love red hair), and a few very, very beautiful people. One guy was so hot— not hot like I wanted to hit on him, but more like something to be admired from afar, a perfect specimen. A young mother across the aisle held her two-year-old and told him all about the tarmac and the Longhorns until he fell asleep in her arms and this recalled so many trips with Henry and I just yearned for those days.

Riding the train from terminal to terminal in Atlanta was also a thrill, reminding me of so many trains I’ve ridden on in Japan. Those happy memories filled me, prompting more happy memories of so many trips I’ve taken over the past thirty years. You could say, despite the 3:45 am wakeup alarm, it was shaping up to be a perfect day, one that will culminate in me getting to see the autumn colors and wear every single woolen item I’ve ever knitted.

But then, I got another kind of wakeup call. I got to my gate and there was no indication this was the correct gate. So I wandered down a few gates to find a Delta employee. And this is when I was reminded that, at least in my experience, Atlanta has the rudest airport employees anywhere in the world. Seriously, I think they have a special Super Bitch School for Atlanta airport workers. I mean, I didn’t have a fight or anything like that. I just walked up and asked for the right gate, telling my destination. Seeing I was laden with luggage (even though I travel light, I didn’t check anything in) the woman behind the counter snapped at me that she needed my flight number. Because, you know, Delta probably has 200 flights heading to Portland, Maine today so she couldn’t simply look it up by destination.

While I unloaded, and rooted around for my boarding pass, taking my sweet time, another clerk barked at me to tell her my departure time. I held up my hand and looked at both of them. TOO MANY QUESTIONS I said.

Finally, they confirmed for me I did have the correct gate info, and then one took the opportunity to lecture me on when and how information appears on the screen, as if I were a complete idiot. This reminded me of another rude airline clerk and I recalled that one was also in Atlanta, when Warren and I flew back to Austin from Honolulu via Georgia (god bless frequent flier mile ticket itineraries).

Well, to hell with them. They shall not sully my day. In four hours, I will be in Portland. In twenty-four hours I will be on an island, spending six glorious days knitting and eating homemade cookies. I will be wearing shoes that fit perfectly. And I will be far from the Super Bitches in Atlanta, Georgia.

Monday, September 14, 2009


For as long as I can remember (and I can remember long) my life has had a sort of pattern of going along at a busy and manageable pace for month after month until, suddenly, there's this critical mass moment where I look around my office and stuff is piled to the ceiling, you can't see an inch of space on my desk, and I'm staring at no less than ten deadlines. Being highly superstitious about just one thing-- and make fun of me all you want but I swear it's true-- I associate these over the top intense times with Mercury being in retrograde. Other believers in this astrological conspiracy theory often hold that for the roughly three weeks merc goes retro (which happens a few times each year), signing contracts is a very bad idea and that mechanical things are bound to break down. So are communications with others. Thus the theory is that it's best to try to wait these spells out as quietly as possible, don't make any huge decisions, and back up your hard drive.

While I do seem to suffer some of the negative fallout of M/R, invariably I find that this, too, is a time for endless opportunity to fill my inbox. So I'm sitting over here, desperately working to meet my book deadline (September 30th) which involves proofreading, fact checking, correcting, and formatting over 70,000 words worth of research and curating over 300 images procured from museums and private collectors around the world. I also need to caption these pics, by which I do not mean "here is a pretty quilt" but rather "here are the dimensions, material, year made, maker name, AND some interesting details." I am so worn out from it all, and yet I toil away at it.

Then Merc starts spinning backwards (an illusion, but a powerful one) and my email starts ringing off the hook with potential work offers. Last week, over the course of two days, I was offered seven writing assignments. That doesn't even happen when the economy is swinging in full high gear. I also have a 10,000 word assignment for a private client. And I'm waiting to hear back news from last week's job interview about a job that, when I think about it, I've been training for for over twenty years.

So what am I going to do about all this? Well first of all, I'm going to go get a poster board. When things pile up like this, there is no computer screen big enough to accommodate my To Do list. Instead, I get a good old-fashioned huge piece of paper and a sharpie, and I write it all down and set it on the floor next to my feet. Then, throughout the day, I refer to this list, monitor where I'm at progress-wise and, moments it is merited, make a very happy slash through a project completed.

During my interview last week, a question came up that I've heard before, one that makes me squirm a little. How fast do you write? When I'm bidding on a job to write marketing copy and/or overhaul websites for companies, I try to dodge this question, preferring to negotiate a flat fee over an hourly fee. Because, for whatever reason-- maybe thirty-seven years of practice-- I write very, very, very fast. I realized, as my answer was coming out of my mouth, that it was probably sounding like a bad cross between haughty, ridiculous, and impossible. I tried to explain that when I walk the dogs in the morning, I am writing in my head. I don't mean that in some romanticized way. I mean, I am forming and editing sentences, paragraphs, and entire essays. Then, on an ideal day, I come home, meditate for ten or fifteen minutes-- which seems to "set" what I've written in my head-- and then I approach the keyboard and pound out up to 2000 words of a fairly polished first draft inside of an hour. So you can see why I don't like to bill by the hour, since technically I might only actually be at the computer for an hour or two.

Once I billed for a gig and included the amount of time I'd thought about the piece before sitting down. That seemed fair to me. When the client balked and demanded a breakdown of my hour-by-hour process, I went ahead and sent a list that included several hours for mulling. Because frankly, mulling is when I do my best work.

Anyway, this post is not one of those fully formed, structurally sound pieces. I have yet to walk the dogs. I did not meditate. I'm just sitting here, procrastinating for a few minutes (something I rarely do though this book project has gotten me into that habit more than I'd like). I mostly want to say that I am psyched out of my head knowing that, a week from today, I will be on Monhegan Island, which is twelve miles off the coast of Maine. I'll be at a knitting and yoga retreat. I went on this last year, too. I get to spend five glorious days hiking, looking at autumn colors, avoiding yoga classes, and knitting my little fingers off in the company of other knit-addicts. My nickname at knit camp is the Termi-Knitter.

In preparation, I knitted the hat pictured above, modeled here for you by the dumbest/cutest dog on the planet, Rebound McCarthy. Rebound is fond of running into walls, licking the dirt off of Warren's shoes, and misjudging how high to jump when attempting to clear the arm of the futon couch, thus bonking herself in the head some more and further compromising her already limited intellectual capacity. But damn, she sure looks fine in that hat, doesn't she?

As will I when-- come on next week!-- I am in a place where the weather actually warrants the wearing of this chapeau.

You will not hear a peep from me then. Connectivity is limited. And to use one's cellphone, one must climb to a certain spot in the island's little cemetery, cross one's fingers in a certain combination, and face a particular direction just to get reception between the hours of 2 am and 3 am.

I can't wait.