Saturday, June 23, 2012

And His Eye-Guts Were Hanging OUT! (or All Parents Lie. ALL OF THEM!)

So, it’s summer and Jaws is playing nonstop on cable.  I guarantee that if you’re bored and have 200+ channels, you will find Jaws playing RIGHT NOW somewhere in the vast world of cable TV.

I’ll be honest with you:  Jaws is my all time favorite movie.  (Along with Jackie Brown.  Oh, and Galaxy Quest.)  That was the first horror movie I saw that I can remember.  It’s also where I came to the realization that parents lie.  ALL PARENTS.

When I was 10 years old, my dad got it into his head that he needed to see Jaws, and he needed to see it THAT day whether or not he and my mom could find a babysitter.  I can only imagine – hope – that my mom said, ‘Oh, honey…I don’t think we should take a 10 year old to see that movie…I mean, it’s about a killer shark that eats EVERYTHING.’  Regardless, they decided to go and to take me.

I remember vividly the walk from the house to the car.  I remember my dad saying, “Just remember.  It’s a fake shark.  It’s just some guy driving around in a shark machine.  There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

And I remember asking, “Why would he DO that?”  I thought it was a plot point – and a stupid one at that.  Surely there were better, more effective ways to kill people aside from building a shark suit and cruising the beaches.  It made no sense!   (This should have been the first indication to my parents that I would be a writer.)

So we went.  And when we got to the theater, my mom said, “If you’re scared, we can go home.  Just say when you get scared.”

That was about three minutes into the movie when poor Chrissy took the last drunken skinny dip of her life.  I hit mom with the high sign.  I was ready to go, she had promised, and I was calling in that marker. 

Her response:  “It’ll be fine.  Just close your eyes.”

And then she did what all moms do when something scary happens on the screen.  She plastered her hand over my eyes. 

Well, that’s not very effective, now is it?  Short answer:  No.

I watched EVERY HORRIFIC MOMENT of that movie through the mini-blinds of her fingers.  I saw “that poor Kintner kid”  get it, also Boo-Boo the dog, the poor sap who was rowing to the kids with his gawdawful New Yawk accent – “Hey, fellas. Fellas!  You guyse okay ovah theyah?”, the Sunday roast,  and then ultimately poor Quint - “You all know me, you know how I make a living” – and the Orca.

I was devastated, not only by the movie, but also by the fact that my parents outright LIED to me.  They said we could go home.  I remember being really PUT OUT on that drive home.  And, of course, that night I had nightmares that there was a beach in my bedroom, right under my sister’s bed, and after waking the whole house, my parents made her sleep with me to get me to shut up.  Take THAT, Mom and Dad. HA! (Sorry, sis.)

But the most vivid memory was sharing every gruesome detail of that scary movie with the kids in my neighborhood.  I specifically remember telling Donna Boucher and her older brother John about it, especially poor Ben Gardner.   “His head popped out of the bottom of the boat and his EYE GUTS WERE HANGING OUT!”   It was gross and scary and wonderful!  And they were wicked impressed that I was allowed to go see a movie that they could not.  (Little did they know it would scar me for life.)

I don’t really know what the magic combination is that acid-etches memories into the human brain, but I can only assume it’s a combination of terror-once-removed, abject-glee, and the shock of parental betrayal. 

In any case, Jaws is on right now.

I’m going to watch it for the hundredth time.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Refreshing (or REFRESHING!)

I am in love with my refresh key.  I hear there’s a Function key that does the same thing, but I can’t find it and every time I try, weird things happen to my computer.  Not fun.  And not refreshing in the slightest.

Some good things happened over these past couple of weeks in the snail-paced world of writing.  I got a request for a manuscript from a query sent out in February.  And then yesterday, I got another one from a query sent out in March.  It’s June, by the way…almost July…but I’m not complaining!  I swear I’m not.  It beats the alternative, right?

Now, despite the fact that it took five months to hear from the agents, I have convinced myself that they will respond quickly with their thoughts on the project.  (Because mine is their ONLY manuscript right now.  What?  No?  Seriously?)  So I spend most of my day hitting that Refresh key and watching breathlessly as the little message bar tells me I have two, three, four messages, and then, as they dribble in, I am comforted by the fact that there are still sexy hot singles in my area, and low-cost insurance for the likely disease I might pick up from these sexy hot singles, or that there’s a sale going on at my favorite store(s)…none of which I can afford for a variety of reasons.  (If you want snail’s pace, try applying for unemployment insurance.)

Oh, I remember when I first started writing, lo those many years ago, and how quickly I thought I would sell a book.  Didn’t happen.  And then, when I won a pretty decent writing award, I thought, “This is it!”  But it wasn’t.  And then, when I finished my second project, I thought, “Okay, this FOR SURE is the one…”  Only not so much…not yet anyway.  So now…now I manage my expectations just a little better.  I take it all in stride, or at least I try to.

Nowadays, I just sit back, hit that Refresh key, and pray for a coupon for free dessert at Chili’s because that’s a good day, no matter who you are.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Relax! It's Not All About YOU (or Why Facebook Kind of Sucks)

So, here’s the thing.  I’ve got a lot on my mind.  I’m going to try and break it down as quickly and clearly as I can, but I may digress, so be forewarned.

The first point I guess I want to make is that Facebook is insidious, and Mark Zuckerberg is the devil.  Don’t pretend you haven’t thought this too. 

The second point I know I want to make is that IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU.  Not always, anyway.

A little backstory.  The other day I posted a rather innocuous message on my Facebook – something a little deeper than “Gosh, I’m hungry!” and “Wow! Look at this funny LOLcats picture!” though not by much.  It was something like, “If you play with fire at work, don’t be surprised if you get burned.”  Well, holy cow, did that open up the floodgates.  My email notification didn’t stop pinging (or wheeeing – if you’ve been near me when this happened, you’ll know what that means) all day.  I got no less than eight messages asking who I was talking about – the senders’ surreptitious way of asking, “That’s about ME, isn’t it?  ISN’T IT?” 

The short answer is no.  It is probably not about YOU.

See, and this is the other thing:  I work five different jobs.  I work for three or four universities at any given time.  I work as a consultant for multiple clients (both academic and corporate), plus I have a pretty good network of friends and family who are bound to screw things up on an almost daily basis.  (And I mean REALLY screw things up.)

So, over the past week or so, I’ve gotten the following scuttlebutt:

  1. Someone has gone beyond swiping Swingline staplers and “really good pens!”  at work to stealing thousands of dollars in actual cash-money. 
  2. Someone has been put on probation for poor job performance.
  3. Someone has stolen a work product – a serious work product – and wrecked it.  They are now in the slammer for this theft and destruction.
  4. Someone has been outed for sleeping with students.  (By the way, the trouble with teenagers is that they’re teenagers.  They have mouths like torn pockets.)
  5. Someone has been stealing and selling proprietary information to the competition.
  6. Someone has been cutting a lot of classes – and it ain’t the students, either – and the hammer is going to fall soon.
  7. Someone has been showing up to work drunk, almost daily.
  8. Someone died unexpectedly.
  9. Someone slept (and is probably still sleeping) their way to the top.
  10. Someone is going to call the spouse of their current squeeze and spill the beans as a means to fast track that pending divorce.

These are just a few of the sordid tales that float around during any given week.  There are more, lots more.

So if you felt a surge of panic at reading that Facebook message, I’m sorry.   But honestly, it’s FACEBOOK.  Don't take it so seriously.

And finally, if you did get that little surge of panic when you read my post, maybe you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing.  Spend more time thinking about that than thinking about Facebook.

Now, for some truly valuable content:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dirty Yellow Rat B******!

Okay, so apparently I’ve been ratted out by a writerly friend’s blog.  Who knew that other people’s blogs kept track of the last time you blogged?  ::shakes fist at the Internet::

So I’m back.  I’m blogging.  And I’m better than ever.  (One of those things is untrue – I’ll leave it to you to figure out.)

Today at Writers Camp (more on that another time), after I’d been told that I had been “ratted out” I got to thinking about some of the best insults I’d ever heard.    The one that stuck with me is “Dirty yellow rat b******!”  Some Southie mobster was being interviewed about the arrest and plea deal of one of his esteemed colleagues and he called him that – right on TV!  I laughed and laughed and laughed.  Not only was the guy a rat, he was a rat-b******.  And he was not only yellow, but a dirty yellow.  How descriptive!  (I’ll bet that guy has a book deal by now.  Dirty ******.)

Another one that comes to mind is something a friend was called in a British pub.  He got into a shoving match with some guy and the guy called him a “big girl’s blouse.”  I have no idea what that is, but it tickles my fancy.  Another insult (same guy also in the UK), “You stupid fist!”   Where do they come up with these things?  Or, maybe more importantly, how does my friend find himself in these situations?

So tell me, what’s the best worst thing you’ve ever called someone or been called?  I want to know!

Oh, and brace yourselves…I’ll be blogging more often before that ******* blog rats me out again.

PS:  The writerly friend is Penny Piva at Go there and read her blog too!)