Happiness and Age As A Choice

Revisiting a moment from last year’s blog:

Things I’m happy to be too old for:

– Skinny jeans
– The terms “BAE” and “Fleek”
– Breaking up with someone on Facebook
– Men with more expensive earrings than me
– “Teen Mom”
– Smart cars
– Music videos with naked people in them
– Fake eyelashes
– Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber
– Swiping left
– Ridiculously padded undergarments

Things I’m sad to be too old for:

– American Idol auditions
– Noah Syndergaard
– My size 3 black corduroys from 1987
– Making my kids’ Halloween costumes
– Ditto their birthday party favors
– Slam dancing
– A cute little two-piece swim suit
– Spiked heel platforms
– Summer break
– Day camp
– Bowie’s next birthday celebration

Things I’ll never be too old for:

– Harry Potter
– Disney parks
– The swingset in my backyard
– Chocolate anything
– Star Wars toys
– Perfume that smells like lemons
– Tossing my hair
– Eating only the frosting off the cupcake
– Clearasil, apparently
– Pink lip gloss
– Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
– Talking baby talk to the cats
– The Flintstones
– Dr. Seuss

Most of the Lights

Since becoming immersed in my latest work-in-progress, I find myself awash in the angst of the coming-of-age milieu.

This is when young women are set loose in the exhilarated world, while also at the same time being introduced to the inexorable weight of adulthood. I recall memories of the party-seeker on the cusp of realization, learning, gradually, that the more you chase thrills in lieu of happiness, the faster it evades you—and the more the delusion depletes you. In that light, I present song lyrics I’ve written and almost forgotten, which drape over my brain like a watermark pressed onto a page years ago:

MOST OF THE LIGHTS

Now and then I take my life in my hands.

 

Now it’s time for me to put my sandals on, let them scratch across the street.

They leave little scars like Jesus’s as they learn to settle on my feet.

And the people roll like traffic cars,

And they never look the same way twice.

A delivery boy hears me talk to myself.

Still he whispers I look nice.

Now and then I take my life in my hands.

 

So tomorrow I’ll meet a passing fool who is famous, or almost.

Flirt with nameless, light-eyed bartenders.

Swallow cool against my throat.

And it’s dark in here, but it’s atmosphere, and it’s everything to go.

I won’t blink—I can’t—I won’t miss anything.

For what it’s worth, I make the most of the lights.

 

I wander out of a neon crowd, meet the guy who played guitar.

And my ears are ringing in my driver’s seat.

I get robbed right in my car.

So I’m staring numb at this girl outside

Who has earrings longer than her skirt.

Got a ticket stub and a purse strap left.

I am silent.

I’m not hurt.

 

Now and then I take my life in my hands.

Garden balconies and men with tin cans.

Is it brighter here by day or by night?

I’m alone and I’m afraid and I’m tired.

Will this world take my life?

 

 

#
#

 

photo, Laureen Runkle

** Winner, Third Place, Poetry, Pennwriters 2017 “In Other Words” contest

 

The Scariest Chick on Two Feet

The Scariest Chick on Two Feet

Notice I changed my banner on this blog. I replaced the slanted view of my living room with a pinky-orange fishnet placard that matches my Channillo.com short story series, “A Run in My Tights.” I also wanted to upgrade more from a middle grade to a “new adult” feel. More significantly, I changed the tagline from “Living Ironically” to:

“Chick With An Attitude.”

Time to own-up. At a recent GLVWG writer’s conference, I noticed a pattern.

Hint #1: As I explained my projects to a prominent branding consultant, she said to me, “You’re a handful aren’t you? I could tell from the questions you asked during the session.” Frankly, I felt like Little Miss Closed-Mouth at the session.

Maybe not.

Hint #2: In a panel of literary agents/publishers, one of them said A) Barnes & Noble will likely no longer be around in 10 years, and B) print book sales are on the rise. I asked him, “So how do you reconcile that statement about increases in print sales with the fact that Barnes & Noble is going out of business?”

The crowd laughed. Like I caught him in a lie or something. I felt bad.

Honestly, I just wanted to know whether print books actually were back on the rise.  (Note: He confirmed print sales are rising; Barnes & Noble’s predicted demise is a separate issue relative to its business model. Note:  I apologized to him at lunch the next day.)

Hint #3:  A volunteer from GLVWG read two pages of my waitress novel aloud during a critique session. In the scene, the inexperienced waitress is grilled by a potential employer. The session-reader caught me afterward. “Grrr,” she said, “I wanted to hear more of you in that story. I wanted her tell that guy off!”

More of me? I don’t remember telling anyone off at this or any other event. However, I’m realizing that even in environments where I feel like Bashful the Dwarf, compared to the rest of the world, I’m a freaking steam roller.

Here’s the biggest tell-tale sign. Before starting the waitress story, I perused a stack of journals from my youth, and I noticed a distinct recurring theme:

.        1981: “Bobby says I have an attitude…”

.        1983: “PJ says I have an attitude.”

.        1987: “Danny thinks I have an attitude…”

.        1988: “Mike says I have an attitude, and I think he’s right.”

One other guy from this time frame—maybe a bit more of an intellectual problem-solver than the others—would calmly turn to me when I got uppity and say:

Yes, Dominatrix.”

These were all formidable guys—the only type even remotely equipped to deal with me, apparently. Bobby was captain of the football team and drove a truck the relative size of Utah. PJ was a good-ole’ frat brother and avid Steelers fan. Danny was an Irish tough-guy from Queens. Mike was a law student who rode a motorcycle.

And the outright kicker?

One of the above guys, who lists counter-terrorism and military intelligence as professional interests on his LinkedIn page, broke up with me because he said I was “intimidating.”

Time to own up. I must be the scariest b-tch on the planet.

I suppose this is how I am able to thrive as a short-statured woman in an industry dominated by men. Large men. ADD/genius, entrepreneurial, C-level men. In the technology space.

Sometimes I wonder if I have any business hanging around with all these nice people in Pennsylvania. I fear that before long, someone will ask me to pack up and go back to New York.

Until that time comes, I’m going to take the advice of the above branding expert during our consultation (thanks SuzyQ). Just as I braced to be chastised for being too in-your-face, she said to me:

“No. I want you to run with this.”

So there you have it. I’ll embrace The Attitude. I’ll forgive myself for the journal episodes where more than one of these guys literally ran from me, sprinting up the cold cement steps of my basement apartment, while early-twenties Suzanne yelled things after them.

If I can’t get away from it, I might as well settle in.

I hope being The Scary Chick turns out to be marketable.

 

#

Aside: Note my flash fiction piece, Ex-smokers, which seems to pick up on this pattern….

Write Here, Write Now Anthology 2016

“How do you know these things about Italian guys, Ma?”

“Because I married one.”

 

The GLVWG Write Stuff Anthology is now available on Kindle and eBook format, for the first time, including my short story:

CHANGE FOR DOMENICK

itialyNever go on your first date with a guy who asked your mother out first.

Especially if she has this near-psychic ability to pinpoint a person’s true character down to the bone within two minutes of meeting somebody. My mother was weird that way. Half the time she was mistaken for a giggly twenty-five year-old. She loved low-budget sci-fi movies from the 1950s and believed Bigfoot was out there. But when it came to a person’s character, she had your number the minute she saw you.

My buddy Marianne’s Sweet 16 party was at Pat and Jim’s restaurant in Patchogue, Long Island. The party ran long. Ma waited for me in the lobby, with her long Mediterranean-looking little-girl hair; as usual, smiling like a six year-old.

A D.J. named Domenick packed up his light board and cables in the front of the restaurant.

Ey,” he said to Ma, unplugging things. “You missed the party!”

“Me?” she said. “I’m just a taxi service.”

*    *   *

To continue reading, only $2.99 on Kindle, buy at:GLVWG image

http://www.amazon.com/Write-Here-Now-Anthology-Anthologies-ebook/dp/B01ETJPF5W/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1461705320&sr=1-1

Take a read, give a review! Plenty of other terrific fiction from the Lehigh Valley inside…

Or find Domenick in my Channillo.com short story series, “A Run In My Tights.”

 

I’m Going Like This

I’m Going Like This

My husband does this thing. I tend to rush around my bedroom, jumping into clothes and multitasking, trying to accomplish some task and get clothed simultaneously. Sometimes I do this while conducting a business conversation via phone. As he sees me frenzying around, talking technology PR in a blouse and no pants, he invariably points and says, “You going like that?”

I drop what I’m doing and say, “Yes. I’m going like this.”

He and I will often conduct full conversations about our household as we change to go out somewhere, clothes flying. As I pull off a pair of jeans to transition to a different outfit, John stops mid-sentence and says, “You don’t have to get that excited.”

I do a happy dance about whatever ridiculously banal item we’re discussing.

After multiple years of this, I have gotten the hang of it. When his business line bounces to his cell phone too early in the morning and he hops out of bed to answer it, I mouth to him, “You goin’ like that?”

He silent-laughs at me.

Someday, he says, when we die, they should bury us together. Naked. And our headstones will read:

“THEY WENT LIKE THIS.”

#

Winner:  First Place, Non-Fiction category in the Pennwriter’s Conference Flash Fiction “In Other Words” competition, 2016

ethereal-smoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sing It That Way, Suzanne

Sing It That Way, Suzanne

Thoughts on Creativity and the Broken Brain

 

I recently watched “Love and Mercy,” the biopic on Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys, and last week took a look at “The Imitation Game” with Benedict Cumberbatch.

I am reminded how torturous it is to watch people who are inherently genius, yet are so deeply troubled that they have to suffer for it their whole lives. I am also reminded of a conclusion that I’ve held for years:

Maybe this is an intrinsic part of being brilliant.

Maybe you have to have a few things missing from your brain in order to have quite enough flexibility day dreamfor all that cool stuff to happen as it does. Maybe authentic creativity requires a brain that does not function like a normal person’s. Creativity is in fact a side-effect of impairment.

Not to categorize myself as Miss Brilliant, but I’ve always had an affinity for the tortured artist type. I’ve felt my brain on occasion go to off-beat places because it had to, because of aberrant dyslexic flashes where I can’t put two and two together. The signals in my brain don’t make the jump from one synapse to another like a regular Joe’s. It skips over the traditional thought process and crafts a new way to interpret stimuli.

I’ve sometimes remarked that all my creative impulses may be one big, undiagnosed dyslexia symptom.

Scary thing is, my brain is so good at compensating that there have been times I have surreptitiously seen and heard and things that weren’t there. (Or sometimes didn’t see something that was there.) Usually I hear something musical, or narrative, where a story or a melody start running in my head.

There are scenes in Love and Mercy where Brian Wilson lies down and hears things… people talking, melodies and harmonies singing, sounds in the background. I’ve had instances of that. I’ve lain back, or dropped half-asleep, and heard songs playing or people speaking dialog that I’d never heard before. I hit a state where things start writing themselves, and I sit back and listen. It’s a weird and beautiful experience. It is magic. But sometimes it is spontaneous enough that it takes you by surprise and makes you wonder about your reality.

My husband insists I fabricate these kinds of things to position myself as special. It’s not true. I’ve walked through my life seeing certain things backwards or further away or closer than they are. Or sometimes I don’t see an object in front of me at all—it blanks-out and fades into the background. Yet my brain bridges the gap.

No one has ever really asked me, but this is my life:

Have you ever had that moment when you pick up a glass, and you think it’s full but you’re mistaken?

You lift it, and the glass goes flying and you spill water because your muscles were bracing for a different level of heaviness. You were fooled. Your brain misperceived it.color leaves

That’s my existence. I walk past a door jamb or a coffee table, and my brain tells me it is twelve inches from my body when it is actually only three inches away. I smack my shin on the table or bang my shoulder against the molding. I have dealt with unjustifiable bumps, bruises and scrapes my whole life. I am a grown woman who walks into things.

One day when my brother and I were in a band together, we were practicing in his room. He played the bass line to The Police’s “Roxanne.” I said, No, Jim, wait—you’re missing a couple of cool notes here, that’s not how it goes. Where are those two other notes?

“What two other notes?”

I mouthed the bass line. “You know, DAT DAT – dat dat… DAT DAT – dat dat… Loved you since I knew ya’…”

He said, No, what are you talking about? That’s not how it goes.

I said, oh please, I’ve listened to this song a thousand times.

I sang it again, and he argued. Finally he sat me down with my ear next to an enormous speaker and played the record. He turned up the bass on the equalizer. He said, “I want you to take a deep breath and listen.”

Wait, I said, where did those other bass notes go? I swear they’ve been there all this time.

He said, “YOU WROTE THEM.”splat guitar

“What?”

You wrote them, Sue. You hear them in your head because you wrote them into the song.”

And then there was the day I sang in my high school talent show. A fellow theater student played piano behind me … and then he just stopped. I kept singing, because that’s what they teach you to do when something screws up on stage. You keep going. The piano kicked back in.

After the number I went to the accompanist and said, What happened?

He said, “What do you mean?”

“You stopped playing. In the middle of the song.”

He gave me the face. The expression people deliver when I inadvertently admit I’m not experiencing quite the same world as they are.

“I never stopped playing,” he said.

I asked another friend in the show, What did you hear? Did he stop playing?

There was the look again. The tilted head and squinty eyes. “Of course he didn’t stop playing,” she said. “He was fine.”

I thought to myself, Jesus, it’s me. My brain stops perceiving things sometimes. Yet I always push on.

Flash-forward to the few weeks I tried to learn piano. A friend in a band gifted me his cast-off Moog keyboard. I commandeered some rocker guy with long, carbon-black curls to give me keyboard lessons at Focus II Guitars in Babylon, NY. He made me practice scales, and sent me home with a few measures to learn.

Next lesson, I swung open my workbook and banged out the piece. It was a lovely bit of music.

Rocker guy scratched his head. “That was nice,” he said.

“Thanks.”

“What was it?” he said.

???!!

I pointed to the sheet music. “It was this.”

He tried not to do the face, because he otherwise kind of liked me. “No,” he said. “It was pretty and all. But that wasn’t the music I gave you.”

He stood behind the keyboard and played the measures as they were written.

A whole different piece. I had developed my own version.

I never did learn to play keyboard.

There was also a rehearsal for “Godspell,” the first show I ever did outside a school production. I was eighteen. The cast sat around a table so Eddie the director, who also played Jesus, could teach us the harmonies to “Prepare Ye.”

“Do you know how they go?” he asked.

Oh, yeah.” I had in fact had been listening to the original Broadway soundtrack on vinyl since fourth grade.

He said, “Okay, Kerry, please sing the melody and Suzanne, you sing the harmony.” I sang it the way I’d been doing since I was 10 years-old.

“Cool,” Eddie said to me. “Where is that from?”

“What do you mean?”

“Who taught you that part? Is that from the movie soundtrack?”

I shrugged my shoulders. No one taught it to me. “I just thought it was pretty. Isn’t that what’s on the album?”

“No,” he said. “This is what’s on the album.” He and Kerry sang the harmony that was written for the show. Which completely diverged from what I’d been singing half my life.

He said, “Now you sing your part with us,” and I chimed in. It was gorgeous. Suddenly, we had three different parts going, one of which had never appeared in any other production.

Eddie said, “Sing it that way in the show, Suzanne.”

Way to make dysfunction work.

rain keys

#

In Mysterious Ways…

My Entry in Mysterious Ways Today:

The editor of Mysterious Ways read my online comment in response to the Green Angel newsletter sent by Guideposts (see previous post, “A Message From Jason”). It described the incidence of my opening the newsletter to find it was about my family members. She wrote more about it, which is on the Mysterious Ways Facebook Site TODAY.  (Look quick; I’m not sure how long it will be there, front and center…)

I’ll keep watch for this to appear in the print/online version as well and will literally keep everyone posted. I’ve got plenty else to say about what happened regarding this little phenomenon.

If nothing else, an editor I’ve been following for years personally called me to discuss my work.

(BTW, a big THANK YOU to Jason!)

Click to read online.

(Scroll to 10/17 entry)

ms ways banner

myst ways text

angel gr

Read the “Message of Comfort Newsletter” as per above

While we’re at it, this self-same editor, Diana Aydin, had posted one of the most exceptional stories I’ve ever read on Guideposts, so it was an honor to get to speak with her and somehow be included in this community.

Here’s that story:

cross