BORN AND RAISED: VEGAS STRONG

Yesterday morning, I drove to the Strip for the first time since Sunday’s mass shooting. Aside from checking my GPS to see what roads, if any, were still closed, I didn’t think too much about the impact this would have on me.

And then I got there.

As I headed east on Tropicana and approached Las Vegas Boulevard, it hit me like a brick wall (as a writer and someone who hates clichés, I would love to avoid that phrase, but there is no better way to put it). The digital marquee outside of the MGM didn’t boast a bare-bellied girl pouring an electric-blue liquid into shot glasses, or a sleek, skinny-lettered advertisement for KÀ, as I’d expect. Instead, it boasted the Vegas Strong graphic that’s been making its way around casino properties these past two days. A simple black background, with words that read: “We were there for you during the good times. Thank you for being there for us now. #VegasStrong.”

The effect it had on me was far more than I expected and, as I took inventory of all of the other digital marquees that were in my line of sight at that point, I noticed they, too, displayed that exact same graphic. Every single one.

No $3 Well Shots!

No The Loosest Slots in Town!

No Come see our girls!

Just Vegas Strong.

I’ll be the first to admit, as someone who longs to be by the water and enjoys nothing more than being outside (and still being able to breathe) on a summer day, I don’t always have the kindest words to offer about the city I was born and raised in. I often tell people I can’t wait for my husband to finish law school so we can move to Lake Tahoe. I joke that there’s nothing to do here, that I’d never raise children here, that I once burned my dogs paws by taking him on a bike ride at 7 a.m. one morning...in May. (That last one is an actual anecdote, not a joke. It happened. I’m a terrible dog-mom. Shame me.)

But as I drove on the Strip today, my heart broke for the victims of Sunday night’s shooting, their families and, yes, any terrible thing I’ve ever uttered about my hometown. I didn’t think about the unbearably hot summers or the overpriced steakhouses or the fact that you can never, ever walk in a casino without walking out reeking of cigarette smoke. Instead, I thought about my childhood—much of which took place in the very casinos that I now am so quick to denounce.

My brother and I had a fairly unusual and extremely fortunate childhood. We rolled around with white tiger cubs on the carpeted floors of the Mirage executive offices. We ran around back-of-the-house as if we owned the place. We hosted birthday parties in private poolside cabanas where we treated our friends to fresh fruit plates and virgin daiquiris. We met Cal Ripken and hung out in the Orioles’ dugout. We spilled Coca-Cola on duvets that cost more than our mom’s car. We walked to the front of long casino buffet lines with passes that read “VIP/COMP.” We stayed in villas that had their own pool, equipped with TVs that arose out of the bedframe at the press of a button. We painted with Dale Chihuly at his boathouse in Seattle, where he spent the afternoon showing my brother and me his accordion collection and letting us swim in his indoor pool (the bottom of which boasts tons of his blown glass pieces covered in a single plexiglass sheet—you literally can walk on art) and, most importantly, teaching us to paint using the tools and methods he did. Afterward, he took us for calamari and explained to me that what we were eating was squid—and I remember thinking, as a nine-year-old girl at the time, that that would be the coolest thing I ever did in my entire life: ate squid with Dale Chihuly. I was right.

My family was not wealthy by any means. All of this was thanks to my mom’s career as an executive assistant to casino owners.

In other words, all of this was thanks, in large part, to Las Vegas, to my hometown.

So when I saw the Strip today—in all of its colorful, eclectic, dusty-day-time glitz—I was immediately brought back to my childhood, to how I used to see the Strip as a child. Not as a place laden with drunk tourists and terrible traffic and overpriced cocktails, but as a place where magic happened.

It didn’t take long for the tears to come.

I was crying for the victims—the children’s football coach, the veteran, the selfless men who died shielding women from gunfire, the police officer, the college students, the commercial fisherman—who lost their lives in what was the most recent of the 521 mass shootings that have occurred in the past 477 days.

I was crying for the fact that my work week involved nothing but creating communications and content for a slew of selfless, big-hearted clients who wanted to do something, anything to help—to donate meals for first responders or offer donation-based haircuts or donate the week’s proceeds to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund.

I was crying for the fact that we have a leader—love him or hate him—who is the most divisive president in American history, who—whether through thoughtless acts or strategically selfish ones, or a combination of both—only serves to deepen the divide in our country, who digs up, exposes and feeds on the dark, diseased, divided roots that rumble their way beneath this country’s foundation.

I was crying for the fact that, as I sat at a stoplight on Las Vegas Boulevard and watched unmarked vehicles pass in front of me, I wasn’t thinking: Great, the President is here to help. Instead, I immediately thought: Anyone but him.

Anyone but him to address this great city today. Anyone but a leader who does anything but lead. Obama, George W. Anyone.

And, as is typically the case with someone such as myself who gets uncomfortable when vulnerable emotions rear their plum-colored head, the anger followed. And I am aware that this is where I will lose many of you, that this is where I’ll turn into the victim-disrespecting, free-loving, tree-hugging, going-to-take-your-guns! liberal that I realize my conservative friends often see me as. But that’s fine. I just watched a massacre break its ugly, sticky, bulbous way through my city’s front door. I can live with upsetting a few readers.

So let’s talk gun control, shall we?

No ordinary citizen needs access to military-grade weapons. Period. They have no place in hunting, and no place in self-defense. Hunters who treat the activity as they should—as a sport and a skill—would never use a semi-automatic rifle to fire twenty rounds of bullets into their prey. And, as far as self-defense goes, my grandfather taught me a shotgun will do just fine.

I’ve heard people argue that shooting semi-automatic weapons “is fun” and that it’s not a hobby they’re "willing to give up." You know what else is fun? Driving my car 110 mph down the freeway with my eyes closed—but I’m willing to make a sacrifice and not do that in the name of saving lives. I think of the recent story an Australian friend told me about how, after 35 innocent people died in the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, Australians showed up in droves to hand over their long guns, which the government bought back from them. (Her exact words were, “people were more than willing to do anything to prevent another shooting of its kind from happening.” Think about that: more than willing.) And here we are saying, “Keep all of your guns, just hand over the really insane ones that were meant for military use, the ones that were designed to take out masses of people in minutes.” And how do Americans who claim to love this country, to have respect for the victims of its incredible number of mass shootings, to be unwaveringly “pro-life” respond? By arguing that “it’s just too much fun to shoot a machine gun.” The selfishness of that is something that I will never, ever be able to understand.

Will a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines prevent every single mass shooting? Of course not. But does that mean we shouldn’t try? Do we legalize heroin because “addicts will always find a way to get it”? Do we get rid of the requirement you must have a license and insurance to drive a vehicle because some people will always get behind the wheel without one or the other? Laws aren’t perfect—and they take time get right—but they certainly have a place in our society—especially if that place ends up saving the life of a single American civilian or first responder.

What fires me up the most about anti gun-control people is that they’re essentially working for the same swamp they want to drain without even realizing it; they’re lining the pockets of politicians, lobbyists and special-interest groups by perpetuating carefully crafted messages that have been fed to them via Fox News, InfoWars and other right-wing media outlets.

The NRA, in fact, was originally founded as an organization focused on training and marksmanship—but in recent history has shifted its focus to profits and political gain. America's obsession with semi-automatic weapons is a relatively new one (20 or 30 years ago, no one would have argued that everyday citizens "need" to have access to assault rifles), and is the result of a major push, on the NRA's part, to increase its own profits. They're brilliant at messaging.

In short, the NRA has learned to appeal to, prey on and take advantage of humans' most basic instincts (our desire to feel safe, to play the hero; our fear of those who don't look like us, etc.) in the name of increasing its profits. They've carefully crafted strategic messages that half of our nation has unfortunately adopted and clung to—and, as a result, the NRA gets to sit back and watch as well-meaning Americans do their dirty work for them—preaching about and fighting to protect their “second amendment rights,” when ultimately they’re really compromising their own safety and lining the NRA's pockets.

Next up, let’s talk hypocrisy:

The party of “individual rights” is the same party that works tirelessly to limit women’s access to health care or birth control. The same party that is endlessly, ridiculously, insanely “pro-life,” does nothing about the fact that, as Americans, we are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than citizens in any other developed country. The same party that aims—with an absolutely frightening level of enthusiasm—to regulate the eggs in my uterus and chip away at my individual freedom of choice as a woman every single day claims that, when it comes to guns, regulations don’t work and the government should never be able to tell you what to do or how to do it.

Unless you’re a woman seeking birth control or an abortion.

Unless you’re a gay man or woman seeking to marry.

Unless you’re trans person seeking to use the bathroom of the gender with which you identify or selflessly serve in our military.

A brown person from a country whose name we can’t pronounce attacks us and we're more than willing to give up a slew of individual freedoms without batting an eye—we take our shoes off at airports, walk through body scanners that aren't great for our health, allow strangers to pat us down and/or sift through our belongings in public—the list goes on. Yet, when terrorism comes to us in the form of a white man rather than one who looks different from us—when the country of its origin isn't a place that scares us but rather the United States of America—the same party that claims to be anti-terrorism and pro-life refuses to enact a single piece of legislation to help prevent further loss of life.

Fox News pundits have repeatedly said this week, “We need time to mourn before we politicize this,” or, “Now is not the time for a gun-control debate.” Yet, the night of and day after the Orlando shooting those same exact anchors, hosts and authorities did not shy away from talking about legislation that needed to be enacted to stop Muslims from coming to our country. (“In the wake of this attack, you wonder whether people like that should be coming here,” or, “Anybody who’s coming from overseas—especially the Middle East—we need to vet them out.”) So, why then, when the attacker is a white multi-millionaire does the country suddenly need to back off of political debates?

And while we’re on the subject, those same Fox News anchors who claim it’s disrespectful to engage in political debates in the days following the massacre have had no problem calling out athletes who kneel for the National Anthem, and I'd consider that "engaging in a political debate." As Trevor Noah brilliantly pointed out, those same pundits have now used the shooting to pivot back to their feelings on the First Amendment—especially as it applies to African Americans exercising their First Amendment rights.

When a black athlete kneels—peacefully—as a way to draw attention to the police brutality problem we have in this country, we suddenly don’t care so much for constitutional rights. We suddenly think we should be able to scale back First Amendment rights. We claim it’s disrespectful to law enforcement who risked their lives on Sunday night to exercise our First Amendment rights in the wake of the shooting.

Or, in another attack on the First Amendment, let’s talk about Trump’s desire to “open up libel laws.” “Opening up” libel laws is, indeed, altering the First Amendment. Yet his crowds cheered—enthusiastically—for this. Explain to me, then, how the First Amendment does not extend to journalists who report stories you do not like, to athletes who protest in a way that makes you uncomfortable—while the Second Amendment applies to everyone (even those with mental illness and on the no-fly list) and every single piece of weaponry you can imagine?

Finally, I’d like to end this by communicating the fact that I have nothing but respect for the victims and their families, for the first responders who ran toward the gunfire, for the men and women who risk their lives every single day for our country.

And it is out of this respect—rather than out of a lack of it, as so many will argue—that I have to believe we can do better.

Better than two-days’ worth of social media "thoughts and prayers" before we sink sullenly, yet swiftly, back into absolute, unapologetic inaction.

Better than accepting that evil exists and that’s there’s nothing the most powerful nation on the planet can do about it.

Better than writing off the idea of enacting any type of legislation because such legislation “won’t stop every single case.”

Better than mindlessly repeating fraudulent messages that have been fed to us by private-interest groups, rather than forcing ourselves to think independently.

Better. Just better.

I’d like to encourage those who’ve made it this far to donate—however much they can afford—to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund.

And, for those who feel the same way I do, call your representatives—every single day—and ask what it is they plan to do to help prevent something like Sunday night’s massacre from happening again in our great Silver State. And, while you’re at it, call Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s office and ask why the Attorney General refuses to implement the Nevada Background Check Initiative, which Nevadans, who Laxalt was elected to and is paid to represent, voted into law in 2016. Ask him how much of the $6.5 million the NRA spent fighting that initiative in our state is in his pockets. Ask him if knows how democracy works. Ask him anything you want—but just pick up the phone and start demanding answers. 

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto:

P: (702) 388-5020

P:(775) 686-5750

Senator Dean Heller:

(702) 388-6605

(775) 686-5770

Attorney General Adam Laxalt:

775-684-1100

702-486-3420

Reflections on the Women's March: A 30,000-foot view

I write this as I fly far above Los Angeles, watching the city's lights slide further and further away—like a blanket being pulled from under my feet—until all I see out of my tiny window is darkness. It feels appropriate—watching the City of Angels slip from beneath the plane as we coast inland toward a blanket of black, save for tiny lights here and there that pepper the way, adding perspective to the scene, reminding me that I'm not, after all, floating in an abyss. I feel the most confusing cocktail of ominous and hopeful and overwhelmed and underwhelmed. I flew into L.A. from Las Vegas with my mother last night and—together with friends, family and 750,000 strangers—we peacefully protested racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-science agendas as part of the Women's March.

I wasn't prepared for the beauty of the day—a bright and sunny day in a city that saw downpours just hours prior and is expected to see them again tomorrow. I wasn't prepared for the overwhelming sense of community and sisterhood I'd feel amongst hundreds of thousands of women whose names I will never know. I wasn't prepared for the support I'd feel from men who marched alongside us, one turning to his two young daughters at one point and saying to them in the most endearing manner, "Get used to this, girls. This is every Saturday of our lives for the next four years."  I wasn’t prepared for the pure and undeniable love I’d feel as males all throughout the day—ranging from a TSA agent at the airport to a bellman at our hotel—stopped my mom and me to thank us for marching on behalf of their wives and daughters.

I wasn't prepared for the belly-laughs I'd break into from signs that read things like, "Trump can't divide us. He's bad at math," and, "You're not PUTIN a hand on my pussy." And I wasn't prepared for the power I'd feel from others that read things like, "snowflakes make avalanches," or, "love is love is love." I wasn't prepared for the tears that would well up in my eyes as the crowd sang the National Anthem or as I made my way to higher ground and finally laid eyes upon the swarm of people I was a part of—a swarm that stretched as far as the eye could see and made for the largest crowd I'd ever seen in person. 

What I also wasn't prepared for, however, was the sheer sense of sadness that would hit as I sit on this Boeing 777 right now, heading back home to—what?—shower and unpack and sleep sound under a soft duvet while young women all across this country wonder why they have to ask, again and again and again, for the same things their brothers are automatically handed? Provided their brothers are, of course, white and straight and possess all of the other attributes this country deems worthy.

I wasn't prepared for the tears that stream down my face now as I write this—tears that feel so starkly different from, and so much more permanent than, the hopeful-but-fleeting ones that found me earlier during the march.

What I wasn't prepared for was to feel so...unprepared.

Unprepared for what comes next, for the next step in this confusing, contradictory narrative that envelops our country. One that tells us that patriotism is great, as long as it looks more like America-branded beer than a uterus-shaped balloon floating far above a peaceful protest. One that tells our children not to demean and demand, but that also tells them they may be elected President if they do so. One that tells us not to litter or pollute our Earth…unless you're a corporate giant doing so in the name of creating a few thousand jobs. 

As I finish writing this, though, lights creep back beneath my line of sight—Las Vegas welcomes me in a great and awesome expanse that unfolds in the form of little lit boxes making up giant bright blocks against the black. I look through my window at roads like rivers and buildings like Tetris blocks and am reminded that, from up here—from this 30,000-foot view—it all seems so simple. As if I could scoop up hundreds of thousands of women with my two hands and place them decades down a timeline, where we no longer have to ask for respect, the right to choose, and the right to govern our own bodies. As if I could squeeze the tiny rotting trees beneath me to a crispy "pop" between my forefinger and thumb, and replace them with things green and hopeful. As if everything is really as tiny, malleable and easy to see as it is from up here, in this plane full of men and women and babies who read and write and cry and eat peanuts and lay their heads on the shoulders of loved ones who sit in scratchy seats next to them. 

But, while I wish I could live life from high above the ground like this, I know this moment will end. I know that life occurs from the ground up, not the other way around. That the picture we want to see must be painted a single pixel at a time, not in a broad sweeping brushstroke. That the peace we're seeking requires our feet on the ground, not up in the clouds. That, in order to cleanse, we must first get our hands dirty. I am ready to do so.

I am honored by the beauty of today, but ready for the grit of tomorrow.

I brace myself as we land and am reminded that, as much as I love the feel of coasting weightlessly high above brown earth, there is nothing quite like the connection offered by wheels touching down choppy on black asphalt.

Because in order to fly, we must first walk.

 

LEMONADE: Why We're Missing the Point

An avid member of the Beyhive since Dangerously in Love, I am just as excited about LEMONADE as the next Yoncé-obsessed fangirl. (Also, I should start with a disclaimer before I get too deep: I’m a white female.) But, as I was stitching my Rachel Roy voodoo doll this morning, I had a revelation: This is not what Queen B would want. 

All of our incessant investigating and ceaseless social media scrutiny has nothing—nothing—to do with the point of LEMONADE. I’ll say it again, I’m a white girl (a first-generation Italian-American, to be exact), so it’s quite possible that I don’t know shit about the point of LEMONADE, but I can say—with pretty serious confidence—what the point was not: The point was not for us to obsess over Becky with the Good Hair or any other side chick. 

It’s tempting—oh-so tempting—to want to piece everything together: the shit that went down on the elevator (and whether it was or was not related to the billion dollars that was on the elevator), the cryptic Instagram post from Rachel Roy about good hair and self truths, the past demise of Jay and Damon Dash. But how insulting it must be to Beyoncé that she dropped what was—in my opinion and the opinions of people far smarter and more well equipped than I am—the most profound thing to happen to music in decades, and all we can talk about is who has the good hair and whether that person is or is not the host of a cooking show (kidding—that’s Rachael Ray, who has gotten pulled into a shitstorm she didn’t even know existed while julienning some carrots). 

Beyoncé gifted us a beautiful, profound, inconceivable, uncomfortable film on Saturday night. One that spoke to the hardships African American women have faced and continue to face, one that spoke to complicated relationships with fathers and husbands, one that spoke to police brutality, accountability, the power of love over pride, feminism, forgiveness, and about thirty other ocean-deep themes. She plugged her menses with pages from the Holy Book, for God’s sake.

As far as I’m concerned, we are the recipients of a Van Gogh, and we’re focused on that one off brushstroke in the corner?

Instead of analyzing her marriage and attacking anyone we deem to be one of Jay’s side chicks, let’s write think pieces on female struggles and how Beyoncé continually proves that the Good Ol’ Boys Club is officially the least cool place on the planet to hang out. Let’s talk about the fact she has proven herself to be an insanely talented filmmaker. Let’s write about what a visual album like this means for the future of the music and film industries. Let’s talk about Warsan Shire and how terribly beautiful her words are. Let’s write think pieces on what it means to be an African American woman today in America  (I’ll leave that to all the non-white writers who have thoughts on that—I’m smart enough to know where my words become irrelevant.) 

But, let’s not—no matter how hard it may be—use LEMONADE as an excuse to indulge in tabloid tweets. Let’s trade our broken wings for hers and use them to fly far above the fray on this one, BeyHive. I know you have it in you.


 

 

Scared of the Queen

Scared of a beret and a black panther jacket
Turn a positive message into divisive racket
White wash history and clean up murder
So she took to the stage and made sure you heard her

Interrupted your game with some female brain power
Sent an earthquake to tear down that pretty white tower
Lifted up your veil, walked you into the light
But to stay in the dark, you kick and you fight

Stop killing us, what a thing to demand
You wish you fed her, so she wouldn’t bite the hand
But she feeds herself and a whole slew of others
Of girls and women, sisters and brothers


Wholesome fun you demand--beer, wings and ass
Uninterrupted misogynistic violence, not this filth and that trash
Let’s not think or dream or dare tell our stories
Not question the flow, not cause any worry

Too strong, too loud and most certainly too black
Too in-your-face, too can’t-take-it-back
Too keen on the truth, too quick to dream
You claim to be kings but you’re scared of The Queen

White Privilege

Jon Stewart recently had quite the spirited debate with Bill O'Reilly on the topic of white privilege. (Spoiler Alert: Bill doesn't think it exists because "it's not 1950 anymore.") Regardless of your political affiliation, you have to admit that white people have it, oh, just a wee bit easier than minorities in this country. So, rather than throwing my remote through the television screen, I decided to have some fun with this heated topic:

“White privilege” you say? “White privilege” you insist?
But I’m white and not rich, so it doesn’t exist.
I myself bear a burden, a very heavy one
I can’t afford to finish our remodel, my steam shower isn’t even done.

I’m not the bad guy because I’m white and I’m stable
Move to the suburbs, you’re perfectly able.
Sure, I borrowed twice from my dad, Richie Rich
I advise you do the same when you’re in a pinch.

Racism is over—get it through you gourd.
So what if I get nervous when a black man approaches my Ford?
That says nothing about what goes on in my head.
I’ve got two black friends, which proves racism is dead.

All you’ve got to do is work hard and go to school
You’ve got no other barriers, you liberal fool.
Have your folks pay your loans while you go to class
Just get up and get moving--get off your lazy ass.

White privilege is silly—a thing of the past
Slavery was years ago—its effects didn’t last.
Sure, the Voters Rights Act has seen the end of its days
But we can trust the Southern states now—they were just going through a phase.

ID requirements and restrictions on early voting?
It’s not our job to hold your hand and be doting.
Get to the DMV, walk if you have to
But don’t wear a hoodie—whatever you do.

We white folk are scared by a dark man in a dark clothes
For your intentions and purpose, only God knows.
How do we know if you’re holding a phone or a gun?
And why, when we chase you, do you begin to run?

I can’t figure out why you’re always in jail
Can’t your parents afford to pay for your bail?
Of course I do wrong, but I rarely pay the price
Life’s about luck-of-the-draw and roll-of-the-dice.

Sure, I snort cocaine and never get caught
But it’s not my fault you’re in prison for pot.
Just be likeable—shoot the cops a quick smile
An “I’m sorry, Officer” has always gotten me miles.

I rarely get pulled over, but whenever I do
I always comply, so why can’t you?
Let them frisk you for no reason—don’t make a big scene
You’ll only look violent, scary and mean.

Take a cue from Obama—never be irate
And white people will always cooperate.
Just as our productive congressmen do
It’s only taken them six years to pass an act or two. 

"It's just not natural"

People have a plethora of creative reasons to oppose gay marriage, but my all-time favorite, is the "unnatural" argument. Because, Lord knows, Umerica is all about keeping things natural. 

It’s unnatural, I swear, a man and a man
It’s unnatural, I swear, now hand me that can
Of phosphoric acid, caffeine and extract
I’ll take a fat swig and then get right back.

To ranting and raving, their ways are not good
Completely unnatural, I don’t understand how they could.
But give me a sec, I’ve got to turn my sprinklers on
For without a drink, this desert lawn would be gone.

I wish that they would let the natural world be
Rather than running around, begging to marry.
A man and a wife--it's simply what's best.
Speaking of wife, have you seen my lady's new chest?

We just fixed it up--silicon it is named
But, back to the problem--it's the gays we should blame.
For they are the ones who convolute my pure life
And cause worry to fall upon my (now) well-endowed wife. 

Unnatural, I say, to up and let them marry.
So unnatural, in fact, I find it quite scary.
It’s time that we say enough is enough
God, I’m getting hungry, hand me those cheese puffs!

Yellow number six, riboflavin, enriched corn meal
Are the only yummy things that do help me deal.
I find myself constantly searching for a solution
To get out is what I need, breathe in the air pollution.

I hop in my dually, pull out of my paved drive
To keep marriage natural is for what I strive.
Around and around I go in my truck
Breathing in the emissions and thinking, Ew, Yuck!

How gross it is to ponder, a girl and girl
I slam on the gas, send the rubber tires into a whirl.
The windows down, air blows under my toupee
But, thank God, I think, that I am not gay. 

My Facebook Life

Recently, a coworker and I were talking about how insanely irritating it can be to peruse social media outlets. From jet-setting to Hawaii, to children with alarmingly perfect bone structure, to pregnant women who weigh no more than a-buck-twenty soaking wet, we often find ourselves comparing our eight-to-five, grocery-shopping, yoga-pant-wearing lives to the seemingly perfect (per social media) lives of our piers. I like to think that 90 percent of what goes on Facebook is deceitful in some way (perhaps because I'm a--gasp--jealous bitch):

Hawaii and Weddings and New Cars Alike
And, oh, did we mention we just took a hike?
Through the Grand Canyon and then through Nepal
And then jet-set China to see the Great Wall.

We had an awful time and bickered and fought
But, here, let me post pics of the souvenirs we bought.
Which we put on our credit card, because we can't afford this trip
But you wouldn’t know that from our video clip.

And if you’ve not noticed from my status update
We just bought a mansion--in case you weren’t already irate.
We’ve lost all our money. We’re bankrupt and broke.
But we stay laughing in photos, as if we’re in on a joke.

I’ve noticed you’ve not commented on my newest post
You know, the one where I brag, showboat and boast.
And did you happen to notice my husband, so great?
From the pics you can hardly tell that he’s always working late.

In real life, he’s cheating, but on Facebook he’s not
Check out his smile in these photos—doesn’t that say a lot?
And our kids look quite innocent with their smiles so meek
You’d never be able to tell that we hardly ever speak.

So, thank God for Facebook and my social media life
Because only on-screen is it so free of strife.
The picture I paint is false, but who cares?
As long as I get plenty of comments, likes and shares. 

Baby, it's cold outside. Duh.

With the recent "Polar vortex" (thanks, Al Roker) phenomenon that's hitting the East Coast, climate-change naysayers everywhere are popping out of the woodwork to deny global warming. This is how I feel about their uber-sceintific line of reasoning:

Global warming is over because it’s cold outside.
By their tree-hugging theories, I will not abide.
You’ve no good reason to be scared half to death.
How do I know? Well, duh, I can see my breath!

My leg isn’t broken just because a Doctor said so.
They’ve numbed it all up and now it’s good to go.
I can’t feel it at the moment, so their advice must be moot.
These doctors and their theories. Oh what a hoot!

I got pulled over for speeding, but how can that be?
For as I sit here waiting for the ticket, my speedometer is below three.
Was I going twenty over? No way, never, nope!
We’re sitting here not moving, you ridiculous dope.

Cigarettes are bad? I think they are lying.
For without one I feel like I must be dying.
Yet when I take a puff, I’m as happy as can be.
So how then, I pose, can they possibly be bad for me?

My sister’s so silly. She swears she’s five feet.
But she’s wearing heels tonight that make her easily six three.
How can she be short, when she’s tall as of late?
Her math must be off. Poor thing can’t calculate.

So again let me tell you how I know this to be true.
Global warming’s a hoax. Scientists haven’t a clue.
For it’s chilly today and the mountains look white.
It’s simple logic you morons. You’re wrong and I’m right.

Pacifica: Change of Fools

“I’m telling you, if they don’t have the banana pancakes today I’m going to shit bricks.”

Probably not the most romantic thing for a girlfriend to say on the first hour of our trip out of Reno.  

“Oh they’ll have them.” Matt says to me matter-of-factly.

Four hours from Reno, Nevada to Pacifica, California breathing in each other’s air, the smell of melted Marion berry shakes and semi trucks’ raw, relentless exhaust and all we want is to sit down at our favorite breakfast place on Linda Mar beach.

We pull in the parking lot, hop out of the 4Runner and head to our destination—Nona’s Cafe.  

“Gotta eat before we go out.” Matt says.  Part of me wants to argue.  He sees this; he won’t let it happen.  He’s an outdoorsman.  A “never know when you’re gunna need to live off of the breakfast you ate this morning for three days” kind-of guy. We watch 127 hours and he analyzes James Franco’s, or technically, Aron Ralston’s every move, explaining what he could have done differently: “I wouldn’t have stepped there.  Why on Earth would he step there?” or what he’s doing right: “Great idea to piss in the camelback.  Just a genius, genius idea.”

Matt wins; breakfast will ensue.

The moist air instantly seeks out our dehydrated desert bodies with a salty vengeance.  It wants to save us.  I imagine my hair, skin, cuticles, and lips praising the lord—better yet, praising Neptune. Tiny cells baptized in humidity, reintroduced to the coastal doctrine. Born-again ocean worshipers.  The boom and crackle of breaking waves taunts me.  Not yet, I tell them. Banana pancakes first—for Matt’s sake.

“Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?”

We stand facing an empty and disheveled Nona’s Kitchen. We press our greasy, road-tripped faces up against the glass and look in at what was.  Tables and chairs awkwardly strewn about.  Stainless steel looking as lonely as ever.  An empty kitchen minus a few odds and ends.  No people. 

No people and no banana pancakes.

Three doors down we notice Nona’s kryptonite—High Tide Café and Creperie—a new restaurant that ranks half-a-star higher than Nona’s in Yelp reviews.  We decide Yelp can fuck off; we’re boycotting High Tide. 

“What now?” I ask.

We stand in a crowded Starbuck’s.  We’re awkward.  And disappointed.  Awkwardly disappointed.  I imagine if you took a bird’s eye photo of this place, it’d look like an arcane puzzle of ironic sweatshirts, sunglasses that serve no purpose, and oversized purses peppered with tanned limbs and empty heads. 

Starbuck’s is the father of coffee and we’ve just been scolded.  We hate how places like this make you feel there’s a proper way coffee—or one of the 3,000 varieties thereof—should be ordered and, then, waited for and, should one not adhere to this code, they will be hung from the forest green awning outside as a warning for all who dare enter, while the Starbucks Goddess—a fucked up hybrid of the statue of liberty and Mona Lisa—sentences the offender to a life in Starbuck’s hell, serving up one “grande frappuccino with extra whip” at a time to former-brace-faced girls turned greek-letter worshipers. 

 “We don’t hand you your coffee at the register; pick it up around the corner.”

Pick it up around the corner. Why are there so many corners in this place anyways? It’s a goddamn corn maze disguised as a coffee shop.  It has a mix of about 90 percent locals and ten percent tourists, with Matt and I solely comprising the ten percent.  I think back to the last time we were in Pacifica, just a few months before, and can't help but feel a palpable difference.

_____________________________________________________________________________

I’d never been before.  Matt insisted we go together.  He calls me Gidget—a nickname he proudly derived from deciding I’d be a great surfer once when we decided to swim across Tahoe, “ just from rock to rock,” on a day so choppy, if you closed your eyes you’d think you were in the Pacific.  I was months in from a broken knee and torn ligament and ended up putting both my older brother and his girlfriend, who swam with the gracefulness of a tutu’d five-year-old on her first day of ballet lessons, to shame.  “If you can swim, you can surf,” Matt would always say to me. 

He took me to Pacifica for the first time in May of 2011. 

A free-write I did in an English course right after we returned reads “Pacifica, California.  Not San Francisco, Pacifica.  It’s outside of the city, a hidden town that appears shy in San Francisco’s shadow.  I love it.  However shy, however awkward.  It’s David, not Goliath.  It just hasn’t won yet.”

 “It’s the perfect place to learn to surf,” Matt tells me as we cruise along Highway One. 

 I nod. 

I always feel guilty talking on trips with such beautiful scenery, as if my voice—or any voice—might perhaps taint the experience, compromise the senses.  We continue down Highway One, a drive that, every time I take it, makes me feel unappreciative and shallow.  It’s as if there’s such a compact and awesome amount of beauty edged along that route that some piece of it is bound to be missed, bound to be taken for granted. 

I put down the “Smartfood” popcorn (the truthfulness of its name can be debated), pick up Matt’s Nalgene and take a fat swig.  A wave of Tahoe blue washes away the compacted cheese dust from the crevices of my wisdom teeth and my tongue acts as a tool for the bits it missed.  I sit up and attempt to soak in the coastal scenery to best of my ability, vowing to not take any part of it for granted, though I know it’s an unavoidable anomaly that the more I attempt to not take it for granted, the more I will.   

We camp at Half Moon Bay State Beach.  My knee injury got us a bright red temporary handicapped pass and, in turn, a remarkably-oversized camping space.  I’d feel guilty, but it’s the middle of the week; no one is vacationing in Pacifica right now.  I’ll exaggerate the limp around the rangers.

Matt takes me to a shopping center right on the edge of the beach. There’s a NorCal shop that Matt loves.  I nod.  I agree.  It looks great.  But we don’t go in.  I am not surfing.  Not today, not this trip.  I’ve never surfed.  The water’s cold. Nonetheless, Matt loves the NorCal shop.  He was here a few years ago and bought one of his two surfboards from the shop.  He talks about how nice the workers are and how, when you rent gear, they don’t even take a credit card as collateral because, “they’re just that trusting around here.”

Next to NorCal is Nona’s Kitchen. Nona’s is a quaint café.  I’ve never been before but it’s Matt’s favorite place on Linda Mar.  There are no menus, just a chalkboard with a few specials written and waitresses with great memories. 

I have the banana pancakes and an orgasm. 

They were, hands down, the best banana pancakes I’ve ever had.  I start humming Jack Johnson at the table, like some sort of terrible cliché, but I can’t help myself.  Matt has the bacon pancakes and, from the look on his face, an orgasm as well. 

We vow to come to Nona’s every summer from here on out.

_____________________________________________________________________________

 “Matt, your two grande coffees, Matt”

We burn our tongues and head to the Ocean.  But not without stopping at NorCal first.  I need my gear.  

The shop has clearly expanded since the last time Matt was inside.  We try to figure out what store it took over in order to expand—another restaurant, the head shop maybe? Good thing we didn’t forget rolling papers.  We step inside.  The place is huge.  We are not greeted and, judging by the faces on the equiamounts-tanned-and-peeved employees, not welcome. None of the employees are recognizable.  Perhaps because most of them have their faces buried in their cell phones behind a counter.  We notice one young man who doesn’t.  We approach him, but realize he’s “helping” someone else.

“Size 6, huh? That’s sexy.  You have small feet.” Apparently, the new norm at NorCal is to either have your face buried in your cell phone, or a 17-year-old girl’s breasts.  Matt’s disappointment is palpable and is coupled with a constant explanation of the NorCal shop that once was. The one he remembers. The one he loves.  It was nicer; it was smaller; it was better.

I try to recount the reasons I always defend northern California—good vinyl shopping, Haight Ashbury, Nona’s Fucking Cafe.  Suddenly, they all seem to have lost their validity. Has southern California eaten the entirety of the state alive? No, I think to myself, that’s impossible—southern California doesn’t eat. 

I wander around the store for a good five minutes—you know the way you do when you don’t want to disturb anyone “working” but you figure if you can look lost and desperate enough someone will voluntarily come to your aid.  No one takes the bait.  Angry Birds and tits and hold their attention.  I find a wetsuit; I’ve lost Matt at this point somewhere in this Sam’s Club surf shop.  I head out back behind the store and grab a foam long board. 60 dollars.  Matt pays--perhaps because he's acutely aware of how much pain I'll be in after surfing for the first time.  Credit card on file.  So much for the old honor system.  We walk out to the parking lot, spend a few minutes condemning NorCal and then head to the beach right in front of us. 

I half expect the ocean to be as unrecognizable as Pacifica itself—perhaps an access key card swipe and a retinal scan required before you step into the water, High Tide cafés recurring every fifteen feet in the sand, life-size iPhones sunbathing, eager to tan themselves to the point where their screen is unreadable, Starbuck's cardboard sleeves strewn about the sand, mountains of breasts with pierced-nipple peaks along the shore. 

There it is, though.  Looking the same as ever.  Inviting and enticing and taunting me.  Hungry for the flesh of my knees, the fat of my heels, the skin of my elbows.  Thirsty for every inevitable drop of liquid it will effortlessly gain from me--my blood and my snot and my saliva.  Begging me to hop in, let it swallow me alive, introduce me to every sharp rock and chunk of tangled seaweed it has to offer. It, unlike the locals, loves first-time surfers. I’m its nutrition for the day.  

California may not eat, but the ocean is as hungry as ever.  And thank God for that.

Worlds apart

**The following post is fiction and written from a StoryMatic prompt card (a box of cards that prompts writers to write, basically). The card I pulled today read, “person born in the wrong time period.” Here goes:

     I often feel like I don’t belong. An anomaly of sorts. A fish out of water. A cliché that makes little sense but yet is still living, breathing, convincing.  A wrong in the middle of rights.

     There’s a book on my bookshelf. One I got for free at a music festival. A woman stood at the entrance—or perhaps the exit depending on your place in time—handing them out. Shiny, black, hardcover books. For free. I watched as people passed by, not understanding. It’s free, people. A free book. And you’re not going to accept it? I accepted it. Which is to say I grabbed it from her hands, took it home, opened it once to find a writing style so far from that which I enjoy that I slammed the cover closed with the verve of a five-year-old. Post-naptime. Yet there it sits. On my shelf.  As it must.  Simply because it’s a book. And my shelf is, after all, for books. It is wrong in so many ways among the read and the re-read and the analyzed and the margin-noted. The Mary Karr and the Joan Didion and the David Sedaris and the John Muir and the John McPhee and the Bill Bryson and the Henry David Thoreau and the Karl Marx and the others. Many others. It, other than during its initial opening, has not been read. Nor re-read, nor analyzed, nor margin noted. No neon Post-Its pop from its edges, sun-faded and moisture-sucked from the hot desert air, their revealed edges curling, as if gasping for air. No words inside are underlined in ball-point pen (nor in pencil as my mother would prefer). Nor looked up and jotted down on my never-ending list of words to learn. I guess this is all to say it doesn’t belong. Yet, for some reason, it must live amongst the others. Unloved and untouched and uncared for. Like a manikin unclothed, standing amongst others draped in silk and paisley prints and velour.  Yes, that’s it, a naked manikin. In some ways, I suppose that’s one of the saddest sights there is to see in this world.

     I want substance more than I’ve ever wanted anything. Even context. In today’s world, I thirst for it like water in a drought, knowing, all the while—as my pallet becomes thick and sticky with my own spit—that there is none. At least none of the nature for which I’m looking. I suppose "like water in a drought" is one of the worst analogies I've ever written. I had a professor once who compared cliches to Twinkies. He said they were fine, for the everyday eater, the everyday reader. But, he said, if you were a chef--someone who got paid to cook for others--serving Twinkies on a silver platter was unacceptable. So, as a writer (despite my lack of pay), I suppose "water in a drought" is my version of a chef serving twinkies. I apologize for that.

 

     Sometimes I watch the news. Or what they call the news. The other day an anchor was discussing her porn name. You know, where you take the name of your first pet and the name of the street you grew up on and there you have it. On the news. An anchor. Discussing her porn name.

     Did I mention I want substance?

     Perhaps my grandma wanted the same. Substance, that is. Perhaps, in the ‘40s, she longed for the 20s. Perhaps those in the ‘20’s long for the previous century’s ‘80s.  I do not know. All I know is that I long for the ‘40s, the ‘20s, the previous century’s ‘80s. Anything but the here and now.

     I visit her, my grandma. Every afternoon. She lives down the street from us in Las Vegas. On Ringe Lane. I listen to her stories. The stories about the ‘40s. We look at catalogues together. I love her if for no other reason than the fact she uses the word “catalogue.” There is a difference, you know, between a magazine and a catalogue. But no one seems to care about that anymore. Just as women don’t wear silk slips so sheer their whole body pierces through the fabric, round thighs and bony hips and perky nipples. No, slips are out. Catalogues are out. In the here and now, that is.

     She likes what you and I would call the “vintage-looking” dresses. Ones with big fabric buttons and bright white polka-dots and skirts that shoot out so far from one’s silhouette, the wearer of such an item would be a fool not to dance with a handsome man in it, if for no other reason than to spin that skirt for all its worth.

     I like her best when she sees what you and I would call the “skank” dresses. Visceral and embarrassed at once, her reactions are. Curious yet offended. She asks me, You wouldn’t wear something like that, would you, bean? No, I tell her, Never. And I mean it, too. Most girls my age would wear those dresses, but I would never.

     And, speaking of my age, my friends often tell me I’m much older than the years I've actually acquired. They joke that my strawberry-blonde hair looks dull-grey inside, when it doesn’t have the sunlight to flatter it. I wouldn’t mind—though I never tell them this—having grey hair. For grey hair would mean I was born to an earlier time. A better time. Grey hair would mean my wide-eyed face first saw this world when it had not yet been drained of that substance I so long for. But close only counts in horseshoes, my grandma always says.

     My boyfriend doesn’t quite understand that saying. Though, to be fair, no one my age does. Rolls his eyes when I say it. Asks why I can’t just be happy. He’s sleeping, after all, with many a happy girl. Girls who don’t say things like “close only counts in horseshoes.” Though, I’d never let on that I know this. He thinks I think I’m his only. I don’t even wish it to be true. Perhaps that says something about us. About him and me. My friends ask why I’m with him and I have no answer other than to say I suppose when you feel like this much of an outcast, who you date and if you date doesn’t matter. Not that I date him to feel less like an outcast. No, that’s not it. It’s just that when you know—I mean really, really know—that no man nor boy in this particular place at this particular time is ever going to come even close to being right for you, you take the first one that comes along without putting up much of a fight. Why take him at all, you may wonder. And that, I’m still trying to figure out myself.

     Or perhaps that is a lie. The “trying to figure out” part. I don’t much try to figure out anything. My discomfort with this time period, oddly enough, has made me quite complacent with many things. Like who I choose to be friends with. Or who I choose to date.  Or what clothes I choose to wear. When you don’t like any of your available options, you’ll take anything, for Choice A is just as miserable and unfulfilling as Choice Z. So why waste time sorting through semantics?

     My phone rang today while I was with him. I left while he was in the restroom—the sound of his strong stream of piss breaking through the calm water was more than I could take in that moment. It was my grandma. The phone call, that is. Wanting me to come over. Wanting me to hear her stories, I assume. Her stories are my key to turn back time. My get-out-of-jail-free-card (jail being the present) that, when cashed in, takes me to a place that looks and smells and feels like the place I wish I was born into. It’s not an all-out time machine—my time with her—but I’ve found it’s as close as I can come for now.

     I leave his house and drive. Drive through the ratty neighborhood he lives in and past the Buck’s Tavern and Big O’ Tires on Nellis Avenue. And I arrive at her house on Ringe, failing to even glimpse at my own home as I, too, pass it.

     I open the screen door and shudder at the high-pitched creak it makes as I do. And my shuddering makes me laugh—a reminder that I’ll never get used to anything, not even the sound I’ve heard every single afternoon since I was old enough to open the old thing on my own. Audrey Hepburn said that in Breakfast at Tiffany’s: “I’ll never get used to anything. Anyone that does might as well be dead.” At least that’s how I remember it. What she said. I let the screen door with its broken spring slam behind me and brace myself as to avoid shuddering again. I’m successful this time.

     My grandma sits on her sofa. It’s light blue fabric, lighter even in parts where asses have planted themselves over the years. Amongst the blue is a white toile print. One of men in straw hats and women in long dresses, ribs and bellies shrunk and stretched length-wise via corsets. Every time I look at that print I wonder what it would take to become part of it. I used to imagine, as a kid, that one lucky day I would sit on that couch and it would take me in, suck me up and re-fashion my being as part of its pattern. A two-dimensional, single-hued, toile woman, I long to be.

     I notice my grandma’s holding something new. A Kindle to be exact. It was a gift, she says, from my Aunt Joann. Her daughter, my aunt. From either perspective, a moron, I think. Why would my grandma want a Kindle? Only then I realize she does indeed want a Kindle. What I at first thought was merely the white, white reflection of the thing’s screen in her eyes, I notice now is a an unfortunate glow. A child-like light beaming from inside. She’s excited. No, no. She’s thrilled.

     Do you like it, I ask her. I love it, she replies. That’s why I had you come over, she tells me, I need help with it. She knows not how to download books nor how to read them once she does. Why she picks me of all the 13 grandchildren to help her—the one grandchild who doesn’t have a Facebook account who actually wears the things she buys me for my birthday to places other than ironic Christmas sweater parties—is beyond me. And I tell her this. But never mind that, she says. I should just help her, she says. See if I like it myself. If I do, she says, she’ll buy me one. I ask her to stick with the sweaters instead. She mumbles something I can’t make out, perhaps because I don’t want to.

     We spend the next two hours buying books online. Online on her fancy new Kindle. I cringe less and less with each “purchase” click. In fact, not only do I cringe less and less, but I perk up more and more. No matter how hard I resist the digital domain—especially one that houses what once were books, actual, physical, crisp-as-an-apple books—I find myself giving in. Relaxing on the toile couch with my grey grandmother and her black Kindle. A recommendation comes up in Amazon. Lo and Behold, it’s “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Oh, I’ve heard of that one, she says. How Amazon got “Fifty Shades of Grey” from her previous purchases of mystery novels and Harper Lee and John Steinbeck is beyond me. That’s enough for now, I tell her.

     And just then, as I worry my grandmother may be turning both her and me into digital-romance-novel-reading zombies along with the rest of the world, she says, Fine. Fine, she says. She’s tired, she says, because of the screen. It has hurt her eyes. Let’s relax, she says, Put on a movie. And with that I get up, head to her VHS collection, pull one from among the many, and force it into her VCR--the inevitable click-clack as the machine accepts the device like music to my ears. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Ah, she says, Just what I was hoping you’d pick. And for the next near two hours, we lose ourselves in the delicious past.

Why a certain analogy grinds my gears

Gun regulations are nowhere near as stringent as the regulations we’ve placed on cars and drivers. That is the point of this post.

As a writer, I’m always looking for analogies and metaphors to better illustrate the story I’m trying to tell. But, the current analogy that’s going around comparing drunk driving and cars to mass shootings and guns is about as correct as me writing a sentence that states that the snow falling outside of my window is as white as the soot that sits in the bottom of my fireplace.

I'm in no way an expert on guns or gun control. So please don't take this post as me trying to be. Rather, I'm simply someone who sees a major flaw in an argument. I’m not anti-guns at all; I’m just pro-coherent conversations. So, if we’re going to argue about something as significant as gun control, let’s at least argue using proper facts and—if we’re feeling really crazy—relevant analogies.

The argument that I’ve seen way too often on Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram (the photos are charming, as you can imagine) these days goes something like this: ‎"#GunControl is like trying to reduce drunk driving by making it tougher for SOBER PEOPLE to own cars.”

I hate to sound like an asshole, but no. No, it’s not. At all.

For if someone could obtain a car with the same ease with which they can obtain a gun, the transaction would go something like this:

-You’d walk into a car dealership that does not keep inventory of its cars (as gun-shop owners are not legally required to keep inventory of their guns).

-You could, in fact, walk into this dealership drunk (as the ATF currently can only suggest that gun-shop owners not sell a gun to someone who seems impaired, but can’t legally stop them from doing so—and could, legally, drive your newest purchase off the lot impaired. See Jon Stewart on the sneaky, sneaky way an amendment limiting regulation on the NRA--resulting in ridiculous things like people being allowed to buy guns whilst being schwasted--got passed. SPOILER ALERT: The NRA wrote it.)

-You may or may not have a credit check ran on you (as background checks for guns are legally required by commercial dealers with a federal license but not required in private transactions, i.e. at gun shows).

-You could potentially buy a military tank as a car if you wanted to (as everyday citizens can legally own military-style weapons, i.e. assault rifles).

-You also, depending on the state you live in, may or may not have to register the car (as many states don’t require gun registration), may or may not need a driver’s license (as gun-permit laws vary state-by-state) and would not be required to have insurance on the car. (*I further looked up gun insurance and one of the first links I came to was this one from the NRA offering two gun insurance options: one for accident coverage, another for property coverage. A paragraph describing the latter states: "Of course, no registration of your gun or serial numbers are required." The equivalent of that would be getting insurance on an unregistered car without having to give the insurance company your VIN number.)

The point is, we do not regulate guns as strictly as we regulate cars. At all. So, if we're going to use the "guns are like cars" analogy in the argument, then it should be used to support gun control, not oppose it. 

The argument that “we don’t blame cars for drunk driving” is a bit pointless. Of course we don’t blame cars for drunk driving. Just as we aren’t blaming guns for mass shootings. But we do regulate cars and drivers in order to help keep drunk driving and other crimes under control.

Think: The person who’s gotten one too many DUIs and now has a breathalyzer attached to their starter that they must blow into in order to prove sobriety and start the car.

Think: The stipulation that one must have a license in order to drive a car, must register their car and any driving offenses—from traffic tickets to DUIs—go on their driving record. (Currently, the ATF is not allowed to keep a registry of gun transactions.)

Think: The fact that while a driver—with a proper license, registration and insurance—is of course allowed to operate a car, they are not allowed to drive a tank down the road. Or a Nascar. (Yet, currently, everyday citizens are allowed to own military-style assault weapons.)

So, gun-lovers: I get it. I really do. You don’t want The Man telling you what you can and can’t do. I’m not a huge fan of The Man myself. But I do understand that the government exists for a purpose. That, ideally, the president’s job is to keep the country’s citizens safe. And, I have to say, I feel that’s exactly what President Obama is trying to do with his new proposals.

He’s asking that congress pass a law banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The car-equivalent of this, as mentioned before, would be like the laws we already have in place telling us what cars are and aren’t street-legal, what cars a citizen can and can’t own—i.e. military tanks.

He’s also asking that background checks be required universally, just as credit checks are ran when purchasing a car. *He’s not even asking that the ATF create a federal registrar of gun transactions, which would be a highly effective measure. (The car-equivalent of this is the law we have in place that requires all vehicles to be registered. *Read about this in Don Perata's article, "State can register cars; why not gun?")

Of course new gun legislation isn't the end-all-be-all. We definitely need to look at other things as well—like mental health care in this country and our obsession with violence, perhaps in particular with violence in the media as it relates to young males (i.e. the pressure put on young males to act tough to prove their manhood). President Obama's plan, I will say, does include some initiatives in the mental-healthcare realm as well as regulations on firearms.  (Read a breakdown of the entire proposal here.) 

I do not falsely believe that gun laws alone (or any other laws, for that matter) will completely prevent any further tragedies. Just as I don’t falsely believe that making driving under the influence illegal prevents all DUIs. But it does help. In fact, after enacting tougher legislation aimed at reducing the amount of DUIs (ticketing bartenders who serve an already-impaired person, increasing the national drinking age to 21, etc), DUIs were reduced by two-thirds. (Thank you, Jon Stewart.) Laws aren’t fool-proof, of course, but they do indeed help.

And that’s all anyone is trying to do here: to help. To help regulate guns so that an average person can’t indeed own a military-style weapon that has no place in the hands of the everyday citizen. (You can’t hunt with assault rifles as they destroy your prey. So what, I ask, is the purpose of owning one?) To help make sure that a gunman can’t walk in a school and fire 60 or 100 rounds without having to reload by banning high-capacity magazines. (If you’re an average, everyday gun owner, why would you need a high-capacity magazine, anyways? What could you possibly need to shoot 60 times while not having the time to reload? Aside from the creator of that Gangnam Style song, of course.)

And then there’s the slippery-slope argument: If the president is banning assault rifles today, then what’s to stop him from banning handguns tomorrow? Well, first of all, congress. Congress is what’s to stop him. And judging by the way they’ve treated the majority of his proposed legislation over the past four years and change, they’d have no problem doing so.

And second of all, did anyone ever present the slippery-slope argument when this nation was enacting laws to help reduce the number of DUIs? The car-equivalent of the slippery-slope argument would sound something like this: Well if we employ a law that says we can’t drive our cars while drunk then what’s to stop the government from employing a law that we can’t drive our cars after eating Mexican food? Or banning cars all together? Sounds a bit silly when you look at it that way, doesn’t it?

And silly is what all of this is indeed. It shouldn’t be about pro-guns verses anti-guns and pro-gun control versus anti-gun control. I, in fact, am pro-guns while also being pro-gun control. All the president is asking is that we regulate guns. It’s not an all-or-nothing argument (although Fox news may make it out to be). It’s the idea that citizens should be allowed to own guns—as many as they want—but should be stopped from obtaining guns that were solely meant for warfare and, also, should be regulated in the process of purchasing their guns. Just as someone is regulated in the process of purchasing a car.

The point is: The Man doesn’t want to take your guns anymore than he wants to take your Dually. And that Dually, by the way, is regulated far more strictly than your guns ever will be. 

How Bravo and Botox Could Help my Career

I have a story.  Well, being the talkative writer I am, I have many stories.  But this one in particular, I’d like to share.

Yesterday, after a long day of writing, I sat down to treat myself to one of my guiltiest pleasures: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  That alone needs a disclaimer: I don’t watch any of the other Real Housewives series, but, for some odd reason, the ladies of Beverly Hills in all their Berkin and Louboutin glory have my attention. That’s all I’ll say about that.  Judge as you please.

So, I’m sitting in my family room, sipping earl grey tea with honey, waiting for a friend to call and save me from both myself and the “reality” series vortex I’ve been sucked into. 

And then it happened.

One of the “housewives” (who is not married nor a home maker, but hey, semantics) was sitting down meeting with a literary agent. For those of you not familiar with the industry, here’s a brief synopsis: A writer gets an agent. That agent then helps the writer find a publishing house to publish their work. The agent takes a cut. Without an agent, you’re not getting published.  I am currently seeking an agent. The end. 

Back to story: I’m watching in awe as this particular divorcee—or as Bravo has deemed her, this particular “housewife”—is meeting with someone I would give my left breast to meet with.  Or both of my breasts for that matter—they’re not that big and, after watching the particular plastic-surgery-peppered series I’m watching, feel even smaller. 

Bottom line: I am dying to get an agent and here, sprawled out across 47 electronic inches in front of me, is a big-breasted blonde who wouldn’t know great literature if it kicked her square in her ass implants, meeting with a literary agent.

The subject matter of the compelling memoir she plans to write? Her divorce. 

Now, if being a divorcee were grounds for writing a decent memoir, my mom, my dad and about fifty of my friends’ moms and dads would have all won a Pulitzer by now.  The truth is, she has an agent because she’s a celebrity.  And there’s nothing agents love more than a celebrity willing to “write” (think: hire a ghostwriter) a book.  Celebrity stories sell. Correction: Celebrity stories sell well. And agents take a healthy cut of those sales. That’s all there is to it.

If I was using a knife to stir my tea rather than a spoon, this is the part in the story where I stab myself in the eye.

So, this scene (the blonde and her agent) prompts me to check my email, which I haven’t checked in a whole seven minutes.  Background info: Ever since my manuscript has been with a literary agent in New York, I check my email religiously awaiting her response. I’m practically picking petals here: she’ll represent me; she’ll represent me not; she’ll represent me; she’ll represent me not; she’ll represent me! My obsession is so bad that, when hurricane Sandy hit, all I could think was: I hope she didn’t lose my manuscript in the storm. (I swear I'm a compassionate person.) 

So, I get up from the couch and head to my laptop. And there it is. 

My very first rejection email. 

Turns out the agent in New York is “passing” on my manuscript.  Now, this is all fine and well.  It was the very first agent I sent my work to and I’ve heard horror stories from successful authors who’ve been rejected literally hundreds of times.  Many authors, in fact, tack their rejection letters to their office walls like bloody--or, more appropriately, inky--badges of honor. 

I almost—if this is the truth or a lie I now tell myself, I’ll never know—didn’t want to get accepted on my first try because what kind of a story would that make for? I can’t give my acceptance speech for the Pulitzer and say, “Oh man, it was such a breeze to get to this point. Everyone loved my work right off the bat.”  Rejection is a bittersweet reality in that failure makes for a better success story. The best authors often have the worst time trying to get published. Think: Dr. Seuss. 

So, I indulge myself with another cup of tea and all of about three decent tears—until I realize I’ve just done my makeup and the whole crying thing is really affecting the evenness of my bronzer—and I get back to my show.

I press play and she (the blonde I’m currently loving to hate) asks her agent the hard-hitting question all authors want to know: How long until we find a taker? Translation: How long will it be until a house offers up a publishing deal? 

Now, I’m thinking, Hit her with the hard stuff, man. Tell her how long it's bound to take. Every writer knows that, even once you’ve got an agent, the hard part is often getting a publishing deal.  Your agent could send your manuscript to 20 houses with no bites.  The waiting game is often longer than a year.  

“Oh, I’d say we’ll find someone in a week.”  “A week? Really? I mean, I knew it was good but I didn’t know someone would want to publish it right away?”  “Oh yes, it could be published very soon!”

Fuck you. Or, more appropriately, me. 

And fuck my bronzer.  Because now I’m crying.  Crying because, not only did I get my very first rejection—which stings in its own right—but crying because I got my very first rejection as Tits McGee is simultaneously getting the news that I’d give both my breasts, a leg, and my hands (which happen to be my favorite part of my body; I’ve got great nail beds) to hear.  And that, my friends, is insult to injury in the purest sense of the phrase. 

So, as I sit down to write more chapters today, I can’t help but think how much further I could get with some Botox and a show on Bravo. If only I could get over my fear of needles to the face. 

An Election Day Rhyme

The election is over and thank God for that
For it’s turned all my friends into Barry Bonds up at bat.
Hopped up on steroids, their heads full of air
Thinking their opinions are vital—“must share!”

Christians who want our President to die
“I’m Pro-Life” they say, “but who wants to off this guy?”
Adults plaster Facebook with their rants and their raves
As they lecture their kids on how to behave.

Respect and America and Sweet Apple Pie
But Lord it’d be nice if our President would die.
It’s one man, they promise, who’ll seal our demise
So no need to leave the couch or wander from those fries.

For Facebook’s the way we make our impact
And while we’re at it, why not throw out the tact?
Complain and commiserate with digital friends
For there’s nothing more informative than good ol’ Twitter trends.

And though I am partial, I have to admit
Even democrats got in on the bit.
For everyone’s an expert in this digital domain
And the grammatical errors bring me physical pain.

If you’re going to share, at least dot your i’s
For the wrong “yours” and “theirs” make you look not-so-wise.
But that is the problem with our posts and our feeds
We spew at the mouth to fulfill our own needs.

“Listen to me, for I know what’s best!”
Facebook’s a gauge, our popularity it tests.
It’s like high school all over for those who didn't get enough
Where the ignorant are smart and the weak, oh-so-tough!

So now that it’s over, I do have to say
I’m going to lose many-a-friend on this election day.
For I’ve filtered and scoured and deleted a bunch
Simply to help me keep down my lunch.

This poem’s been quite cheesy, I will give you that
It deserves not a like nor a tip of the hat.
It’s simply my way of attempting to laugh off
What I can’t help but notice is a plethora of Jack Hoffs.

WTF, Elmo?

Remember Tickle Me Elmo?

It may have been a bit past your time, as it was mine; it came out in 1996 when I was seven years old and, guaranteed, self-identifying as “way too cool” to play with any toy that required hugging it to incite a reaction.  I do, however, remember its popularity, as I’m sure anyone does.  Parents literally scrapping in stores.  Stuffed, red gigglers going for over a grand on Ebay.  Exciting stuff.

I hadn’t thought about Tickle Me Elmo in ages until recently when I saw a commercial for the newest version of the good ol’ furry friend. 

And it is called, I kid you not, “LOL Elmo.”

This bothered me for two reasons.  One: Accompanying the commercial for the social media-savvy Elmo is an insanely catchy tune—L-O-L, you make me laugh out loud!—that my brain can’t seem to shake regardless of my attempts to erase it from my memory by listening to other music (currently: “Hey Jude”). 

And Two: Why in the world are we naming children’s toys based on social media acronyms? 

The toy is targeted toward children 18 months to four years old.  My question, then, is why would any child in that age range be aware of the increasingly annoying and, even more increasingly, inaccurate and overused acronym?

Shouldn’t they be learning, oh I don’t know, complete phrases? Or, if that’s too much to ask, whole words at least? 

Now, I won’t ignore the obvious here.  I understand the idea that Hasbro is actually targeting the parents of these children (rather than the children themselves) as the adults are the ones with the purchasing power.  So, you may say, LOL is an acronym that resonates with Facebook-friendly parents.  I, however, may say that the child is still the one interacting with the toy. 

Parents can purchase LOL luggage and BTW briefcases and LMAO laptops all they want.  But why introduce a child, at such a young age, to a phrase that is absolutely meaningless in their world of sippy cups and soggy Cheerios?  A phrase tailored specifically for the digital domain? A phrase that has no place in actual, physical, face-to-face conversation?

That’s the thing: I’m not sure that I’m necessarily against this toy or angry with Hasbro for producing it.  It just doesn’t make much sense to me.  At all. 

A child has its entire life to learn about LMFAO! and BRB (although, to be fair, I’m pretty sure BRB died right alongside AOL’s instant messaging).  But seriously, they have eight awkward years of teenage life to conjure up just the right privacy settings to make themselves look innocent to their parents but really, really cool to their peers. 

They’ve got years and years worth of an undeveloped frontal lobe and the social media mistakes that consequently ensue including, but not limited to: posting underage drinking photos and/or posting illegal drug use photos and/or posting photos in outfits that would make their grandmother cry and their creepy uncle ask: When does she turn 18?

The point is: I just don’t see the point. I simply do not get introducing social media sayings to children who are still learning how to speak.

Kids pick up on everything around them: As a two-year-old, my little sister watched the movie “The Rock” with us while my brothers and I babysat her.  For months after, she dropped the F-Bomb in her every response. Syd, what do you want for dinner? Fucking macaroni and cheese.

So, yes, they’ll pick up on LOL and begin to understand its meaning, or, if they’re smart, its lack thereof. (Thankfully, Hasbro held back and didn’t go with a LMFAO Elmo.) And the thought that children may begin to learn digital acronyms before actual words is FF (*fucking frightening). 

There is hope. And its name is Cariana.

I’ve noticed that current events and other topics I tend to want to blog about are usually a little—how can I put this?—depressing? Discouraging? Hopeless? 

It’s not that I personally am in love with the drab and dreary.  It’s just that the drab and dreary seems to have nestled itself, quite comfortably I’ll add, in every damn nook and cranny of every damn thing we hear about these days.  Tumors from tomatoes and melting mounds of ice and—God forbid, please say it’s not true—a bacon shortage. 

The world and all of its uber serious problems surround and sober us every day.  And I think everyone could use a little shot of worry-free whiskey every now and then if you know what I’m saying. Notice: The shot glass is half-full. 

Having said that, I wanted to find something that leans a little more toward the sunny side of the street to write about.  A story that isn’t tinged with the terrible, grayed with the grave, or hued with hopelessness.  

Behold: Cariana. 

Cariana is a neighborhood girl who stopped by my house the other night, which—full disclosure—I was not home for. (My boyfriend met her and later told me the story.)  Cariana was in middle school and wanting to raise money for a trip abroad.  My boyfriend started to explain to Cariana that he didn’t have any cash on him but if she came back later…

And then, there it was, the hidden gem of hope that makes Cariana my positive story for the week.

Cariana didn’t just want some cash.  She wasn’t going door-to-door simply asking for her neighbors’ money.  Rather, she was asking to earn it.  And not asking to earn it by offering some sort of convoluted coupon book or calorie-packed candy bar, which—full disclosure—I would have been content with. (Who doesn’t love a king-size Snicker’s bar for a dollar?)

But, rather, Cariana (in an awesome, deep, surfer-boyfriend voice): “busted out this friggin’ list of services.” Yes, that’s right.  Cariana had a typed list of "Fall Clean-up Services" she was passing out to neighbors.  The idea is, she leaves the list with you, and then, when you need something done, you call Cariana and she stops by your house and completes the task in order to earn cash for her trip abroad.  And the girl, I must say, is seriously underpriced. 

Raking leaves? Seven dollars.  Pulling weeds?  Ten dollars.  Pulling out dead plants? 15 dollars. 

And the total she needs to earn? Seven-thousand dollars. 

As in one-thousand rounds of raking.  Or seven-hundred weekends of weed-pulling.  Or four-hundred-sixty-six-point-six-repeated days of dead-plant removal, which—full disclosure—I totally used a calculator for. 

The bottom line is that this story is, in my opinion, representative of qualities that, unfortunately, have become rarities—not just in the youth of the nation—but in the nation in general: responsibility, honesty, hard work, and, most importantly, the ingenuity behind coming up with something to sell besides candy bars and coupon books. 

So, to Cariana’s parents, who are you and why are you not running for President?

What Greeting Cards and Diamonds have in Common

Earlier this month Hallmark announced plans to close a facility in Topeka, Kansas that produces around one-third of the company’s greeting cards. 

Hallmark’s kryptonite?

Social media salutations. (How much did that obvious answer not surprise you?)

We live in a world where tweets and emails and wall posts invite, congratulate, and confirm. “It’s a boy!”  And while it doesn’t at all surprise me that typo-peppered tweets and whimsical wall posts have taken the place of yet another valued commodity in this world—hand written messages—it does, indeed sadden me.

I grew up with a mom who made us write hand-written thank-you’s for every gift we ever opened and, sometimes even, for things like dinners or impromptu rides home from school. Birthday cards were chosen with more thought than the actual gift most times and, on more occasion than one, Mom gifted me personalized stationary for Christmas or my birthday (starting when I was around seven years old, mind you) instead of toys--a not-so-subtle hint that I would never, ever get out of writing letters and thank-you's.  

What saddens, ex that, frightens, me even more than the actual news itself, though, is the public's reaction to it. Reactions of, not surprise, but rather, confirmation.  Reactions of the I-could-have-told-you-that nature.   Reactions that reinforce the idea that this was predicted, expected, anticipated. Well, of course Hallmark isn’t doing well; who sends cards anymore?

Donny Deutsch, an advertising guru, made an off-the-cuff comment during a Today’s Show segment reinforcing the idea that the slow suffocating of the greeting card industry is simply on par with all other universal trends, set in place by a growing online scene.

Okay, fine.  I’ll agree. I guess it really isn't a huge surprise that greeting cards can only hang on for their dear, sans-serif lives for so long. What really rattled me, though, was an even further assumption Deutsch made.  He said something along the lines of (and I’m paraphrasing here): I mean, face it.  Our kids are not going to write thank-you’s or send cards.

I imagine my mom in the room watching the segment with me, her hands, moisturizer-shiny and sun-freckled, reaching through my flat screen, breaking the glowing barrier and grabbing Donny Deutsch by his over-groomed neck, screaming Take it back, Take it back!

The point is, if Donny Deutsch and other adults in this world accept the social-media-salutations status quo and don’t teach their offspring the value of all things handwritten—be it thank-you’s, greeting cards or invitations—then they are indeed doing their children a great disservice. 

The thing I’ve noticed about writing thank-you’s or sending birthday cards is that, because of their increasing rarity, they have become a valued commodity and, ergo, their composer and sender, an even more valued commodity.  (Think about it--how exciting is it to get mail that isn't a bill or a flyer? And how much do you love the sender of that mail?)

As a kid, a thank-you to a grandma for 1997’s Christmas money was a sure guarantee you’d get a larger sum in ’98.  After all, all of the other ungrateful and thoughtless grandkids obviously didn’t appreciate the cash quite like you did—they didn’t send thank-you’s.

Or, take this example: Upon graduating college, I wrote my two favorite Journalism professors thoughtful thank-you notes that I left in either’s mailbox.  At our graduation reception, one of those professors—the one known for his strict and hard-to-please nature—gave a speech reading directly from my thank-you card. 

So, just like vinyl records have become popular lately because of their nod to nostalgia, handwritten greetings, I suspect, are increasing in value as their role in a social-media-saturated world decreases. 

And when you’re the writer behind these handwritten greetings, you become as valuable as water in the Sahara, in a world—I guarantee you—that’s only getting thirstier.

 

Killer Dinner

I'm a writer, so ingesting decent sustenance isn't really a luxury I get to regularly enjoy.  

But, when I do have a little extra cash in my pocket, I like to grocery shop, and I like to cook (I am Italian after all).  And as of late, I've been having some major grocery shopping issues.  

I used to be a regular at Trader Joe's.  Overall, the chain is inexpensive, seems to provide a quality product, and--as long as you've remembered your canvas bags--is quite welcoming. 

Then, an article came out in the Times last year that talked about here exactly Trader Joe's got its organic produce--specifically tomatoes--from.  

Turns out, the Mexican desert.  

A naive me was surprised to read that "organic" doesn't always mean local--or even domestic.  Oftentimes, products labeled "organic" in the states are coming from farms outside of the country that may not use pesticides or chemicals--adhering to the technical definition of "organic"--but that, oftentimes, are employing environmentally damaging practices (such as over-planting a single crop which damages the soil).  

There's also the concern of the emissions from the global transportation process and their effect on climate change.  Some of these tomatoes are making their way from the Mexican desert all the way to Dubai, which is great news for the tomatoes--after all, who doesn't like an extra stamp in their passport?--but not-so-great for practicality purposes.  

So, I stopped buying produce from Trader Joe's and stuck to things like their coconut milk, frozen crab cakes, and natural peanut butter.

Oh yeah, about that peanut butter.

Turns out, as we learned last month, it wasn't such a hot choice after all, wha with it being contaminated with salmonella and all. (How lonely has celery been since this news, by the way?)

 

Needless to say, I crossed Trader Joe's off of my list (though I will forever miss their Sunday samples), and considered joining our local food co-op, but realized I didn't own enough pairs of vegan shoes to walk in there without feeling judged. 

So, because of its proximity to my house and decent natural foods section, I became a regular Raley's shopper.  Which I loathe.  Raley's isn't a bad place to shop.  It's just insanely expensive.  The box of Hemp Milk I buy from there, if not on sale, s around five dollars, but is gone with a few quick swigs from my thirsty boyfriend.  The bottle of carrot juice that has only four servings, that I finish every two days? Six dollars on sale.  A cart with a week's worth of food for two is never under one hundred dollars--which, if I'm being honest, has its perks: you get a coupon for 50 cents off of every gallon of gas at Raley's gas stations with every grocery-store purchase of over one-hundred dollars. Shop, baby, Shop and Drill, baby, Drill, I always say.  

And then, just as I was feeling broke but semi-at-peace with my choice to shop at Raley's, a little gem of information came on The Today Show that forced me into the swift and rightening realization that it doesn't matter where you shop: Our food is, for lack of a better term, fucked.

*(As a side note--can The Today Show please start covering topics that don't incite instant paranoia? Case-in-point: They once did a story on First-Time-Surfer Paralyzation which resulted in my mother calling me in near tears every time I went to California.)

Now, to get back to the frightening topic at hand, last year alone 3,000 people died after eating contaminated food.  But, while that number is shocking, it still felt distant.  At first.  And then I learned this little warm-fuzzy:  The FDA inspects only six percent--yes, six percent--of food facilities in the U.S.  The rest of the facilities--the 94 percent the FDA doesn't visit--are inspected by private companies hired by the food industry.  Private companies who, I'm sure, are looking out for our well being and making sure two-year-olds don't die from eating spinach, right?

Not so much.

Of particular note, is the fact that these companies repeatedly gave high safety marks to facilities that produced contaminated food that either sickened or, in some cases, killed unknowing consumers.   

A plant that produced contaminated ground turkey that sickened a en-month-old girl (who now may have respiratory problems in her adult life due to the contamination) received a 100-percent rating from a private company before and--this is the kicker--DURING their recall of the ground turkey. 

Oh, and about those killer cantaloupes.  The ones contaminated with listeria that were responsible for the deadliest food outbreak in 100 years? (In all seriousness, though, we shouldn't blame the cantaloupes; I just liked the alliteration in "killer cantaloupes.")  he plant that produced them, Jensen Farms, was given a superior rating of 96 percent.  

 

The best part of all? The inspection process these private companies employ involves no--as in zero--scientific testing.  I guess they're banking on being able to spot salmonella and listeria with an unaided eye.  (Okay, "unaided" may be a little harsh--they could be wearing glasses.)

Needless to say, I'm reconsidering my position on shopping at the food co-op. Which reminds me, I've got to get some vegan shoes. 

Obama did not choke: says naive, young girl.

I, like President Obama, was a bit unprepared for last week’s Presidential debate. 

I had no idea what to look for.  I went in blind.  And I came out, according to everyone else on the planet, blind as well.

I thought Obama did well.

Well.  That was my impression.  Not particularly great, not particularly awful—just well. 

I learned quickly after the debate, however—from the media, from my favorite television hosts, from my mom—that I was wrong.  And not just wrong. But, according to Chris Matthews, really, really, undoubtedly wrong. 

Word on the street was Obama choked.  Something everyone agreed on.  Nothing like a little unfiltered anger and disappointment to bring the parties together, I always say. 

Where was I?

What I saw as calm and collected and, yes, in a way, earnestly and understandably disinterested, others saw as weak and unprepared and…weak.

I learned quickly that what I forgot to account for was theatrics.  People want showmanship, not substance. They want two hungry maws maligning each other. They want Obama, The Defender versus Romney, The Challenger.  Weighing in at…

You get the point.

Maureen Dowd included a quote from Carter White House adviser Gerry Rafshoon in her recent op-ed that perhaps sums it up best: “people prefer a good liar to a bad performer.”

Got it.

So, tonight I’m doing the Vice Presidential debate right.  I know what to look for.  My boyfriend is out picking up pizza and wings as we speak (as I type).  And we’re going to sit back, scarf down, and hope the best performer wins.  True American style.  Because, after all, there’s nothing the country could use more right now than a great showman.  

On Writing. And Control.

I’m a bit of a control freak. 

I like my shams folded and thrown over the couch just so—the scene must never look too contrived nor too chaotic.  I am physically unable to fall asleep knowing something is left on or left unfinished.  I’ve awoken at odd hours before both to sleep the computer and to transfer forgotten water glasses from the coffee table to the dishwasher.  I practically get shingles watching my boyfriend do the dishes—Did he just put the sponge face down in the sink to dry? Is he loading the plates facing away from the water jet? That same boyfriend notes my tendency, or rather my physical need, to run in front of him on jogs.  I try slowing down and letting him take the lead; this lasts for two generous seconds—vomit crawling up my throat the entire time—before I can’t help myself.  

I am, indeed, not a bit of a control freak, like I stated earlier.  I misspoke. I am a full-fledged floorboards-dusting, let-me-fix-it!, don’t-touch-that! control freak. 

And what I’ve come to notice—or, more accurately, what I’ve known my whole life but have taken calculated steps to avoid—is that, in writing, you’re rarely in control. 

As a writer, the smallest sliver of control you’re granted is over the words that represent a story—the physical (or often digital) ink that you press into physical (or often digital) paper.  Do I want to describe that article as convoluted or as arcane? Was the doll pattern on the dress animate or lively?

This—word control—may initially sound like a huge win.  Words? Ink? Paper? What else is there to a story?

A lot. 

And it’s all out of your control

There’s the story itself. So often stories take you miles away from where you thought you’d end up or, even more often, miles short of where you thought you’d end up.  The story controls you and, if you’re a decent writer, you let it. 

Then, there are the readers.  Humor and emotion are subjective. You know the saying God knows…? Well, I can assure you that even God herself doesn’t know how readers will respond to your writing. (You like that I made God female, don’t you? Word control, baby.)

Then, there’s the publishing industry.  And that, my friends, is numero uno for no controllo.  Agents and houses and editors the ever-unpredictable market.  Costco and Barnes and Noble and the recurring threat of e-readers and, the even more recurring threat of no readers. 

It’s frightening, indeed. But I will say that, for all loss of control and sleep and sanity that is involved in writing, we do get some perks. After all, in what other career path is it acceptable to drink a Bloody Mary at 11 a.m. on a Monday or to step out back, still in your robe at 5 p.m. and release the most primal scream you can muster for all of the neighborhood kids to hear?  Or to not comb your hair? Or to spend an entire day reading, calling it “research?” 

Exactly.