Thursday, January 31, 2008
(Uh-oh. We interrupt this blog to report disheartening news: Marty just called with an enticing invitation to meet him and Ann at Monty's Steakhouse. Oops--bye-bye step class. See? I totally BLEW IT OFF without a thought--so much for determination.)
Wait, dammit. See paragraph one. I've already worked out THREE TIMES this week. I DESERVE a night out!
P.S. Today's blog was going to be about something else but Blogger ate it, chewed it up, and spit it out. BAD Blogger. :(
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Oh, ye of little faith...
Not only did I go through with it, I kicked ass for 45 minutes in a high/low aerobics class. I am gym-goer, hear me roar!
Okay, a slight exaggeration. I paced myself. And it goes without saying that I hid at the back of the class...y'know...just in case. But I did it. All 45 minutes plus some abs and assorted other muscles.
And, you know what?
I didn't hate it.
I really didn't.
And when I got home, I wrote two pages on my WIP, so it's not like I took away from writing time. Oh, and get this: I fell asleep easier, SLEPT THE NIGHT THROUGH, and FELT better this morning.
So, bear with me faithful blogreaders. I know we've been down this road before, but this time...this time...
...things are gonna be different.
Monday, January 28, 2008
The neat thing about having a blog is that I can search through the archives to see when my last appearance took place.
The suck-y thing about having a blog is that I can search through the archives to see when my last appearance took place.
Some things are best left undiscovered.
And, dear readers, some things are meant to be attempted in incremental steps. To wit: I purchased the new tennis shoes back in...what...November? December?
And I re-joined the gym (ha--kept that one a secret, didn't I?) about a week ago. Only a bout with the bubonic plague has kept me away thus far, but time has run out. I can put it off no longer.
I came across some photos circa 1999 this weekend, and...well...let's just say they were a stark reminder of the me I used to be. Or, to put it more aptly, the less of me there used to be. Back then I worked out three or four times a week. I told myself it was for health reasons, not vanity...but you know what?
I'm as vain as it gets.
This time it's all about cute clothes and the body to wear 'em.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Oops. Not such a clear picture. Well, give me a break. I took it from my cell phone through a window that hasn't been washed in...well...awhile.
Hey, that's what rain's for.
Anyway, this is the view from my office window this rainy Sunday afternoon. I've got Linda Eder on the stereo downstairs, the wordcount on my WIP is rising...what more could a girl ask for?
Oooh. I know! Bailey's and Coffee! Hm...off to rectify the situation.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Okay, I know folks to the north, east, and south find our rainstorms a big snooze, but I just have to blog about ‘em. Sorry. Next time you guys have an earthquake, I’ll listen. Promise.
Because you just have to laugh at what went on last night. Picture this: I’m driving home from my parents on the infamous 101, eyes peeled for those invisible lakes that have the power to catapult a car into instant spinville. Already, some weird dashboard light has blinked on and off—announcing, I guess, that my anti-skid system is in fine shape and ready to do battle.
Luckily, everyone’s slowed to about 35 mph—a safe and sane way to drive on roads that haven’t seen significant moisture in over a year (thereby allowing a treacherous amount of goo to accumulate).
Anyway, so I’m relatively relaxed. And then the alert blares from the radio. At first, I think yeah, yeah, yeah…flash flood warning. What else is new? Unless you’re one of the homeless living in the Ventura River bed, nothing to worry about.
But, wait. What’s this? Something new??
A TORNADO ALERT? What the…?
Yes, last night southern California went on tornado watch which turned out to be an occasion fraught with amusing possibilities.
By the time I got home, it was all over the TV. A constant banner running along the bottom of Celebrity Apprentice. Here’s the gist of what it said: “Five miles south southwest of Malibu, a cell was spotted with rotation capability. The cities of Pacific Palisades and Malibu should be on alert for tornadoes until 9:30p.m.” (Here’s the really good part): “If you are in a mobile home” mobile home?? In Malibu?? (Okay, to be honest, there IS a mobile home park right on the beach), “evacuate. If you are in a home, go to the basement” (basement? What do they think this is, Kansas?). “If you are in car, find a ditch to lie in” (right—I’m picturing Courtney Cox, Mel Gibson, and the rest of the Malibu clan, driving home from a night of cocktails in the city, suddenly abandoning their Mercedes on PCH and diving for a ditch—see what I mean about this being an amusing event?).
But the best part? We’re talking THE BURN AREA. (Y’know, from those firestorms we had in November.) Something tells me that taking cover in a low-lying ditch when we’re also on FLASH FLOOD ALERT ain’t the best option.
As it turns out, the tornado never happened. Well, not in Malibu anyway. But something called a tornado or a waterspout (depending on who you listen to) tore off the roof of a hangar in Pt. Mugu, so I guess that’s something.
The storm coming in tomorrow is supposed to be even stronger, so there’s hope for additional excitement.
Stay tuned for more snickering.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Last night, a commercial came on where the characters were riding bicycles (probably to show how well Alleve works for their arthritic pain or something), and I realized I hadn't been on a bike in years.
Then the electrifying thought: maybe I'll never be on one again.
Which led to...how many things have I already done for the last time without even knowing it?
Hopscotch quickly came to mind. I mean, what are the odds I'll ever play that again? I may not know the when, but I do know the where the final event would have occurred--on Diane's blacktop between her lawn and her horse corral. At one end sat a tether ball (never liked tether ball--couldn't care less when that last time happened) and at the other, a permanent (as in painted) grid for hopscotch. I can still picture my six-year-old self, leaning as far as I dared, to land my chain (or rock, or whatever else was handy as a marker) in the appropriate spot. Neither chilly afternoons nor encroaching darkness lured us away.
But something did, for eventually we stopped playing Hopscotch.
Now a feeling of wistfulness washes over me--sadness that in that last moment I hop hop hopped my way to the finish, I didn't even know it was time to bid farewell.
Makes me wanna run out and chalk up a sidewalk. Maybe play another game of Hopscotch to prove there are no last times. Ever.
Take that, Life.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Anyway, we were sitting at the Sagebrush Cantina having dinner and discussing--what else?--the South's perspective on the Civil War. At one point, he said something to me that I've pondered ever since (obviously, since I'm recounting it now). He said: "Sometimes I think you understand the abstract better than you do the concrete."
Well, I didn't know whether to feel praised or berated--that's how bright I was--so I settled on flattered, grateful he'd analyzed me at all (that's how young I was).
And I never forgot what he said.
Because unlike people who aren't as smart as they think they are, I'm painfully aware that I'm not as hip to stuff as I'd like to be. ::Sigh::
Which brings me to the book I'm reading (yes, there's a point to all this). Robert McKee's infamous Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting. All I can say is, wow! (Yeah, and I fancy myself a writer.) Seriously, I wanna click click click over to Amazon and shove ten copies in my shopping cart for my writing friends. I mean, this thing is in a league of its own.
Why, you may ask, screenwriting? Am I switching paths? Nope. But STORY isn't only about screenwriting, it's about, er, STORY. More importantly, McKee ferrets out the philosophy behind good storytelling which, as I've said all along, is not my strong point. I've read about a quarter of the book, and I now see writing in a whole new light.
How COOL is THAT??
The good news is that I already unconsciously incorporate various storytelling techniques in my writing--some because I've been an avid reader all my life, others because I have indeed studied the craft. But it's knowing why these techniques work--and learning to consciously include them that will undoubtedly not only improve my writing, but make it less fraught with self-induced torture.
And yes...I daresay it's the abstract way in which McKee presents his material that's causing all the epiphanies.
I hate it when men are right about me.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Not sure why. God knows the days of my youth are so indelibly printed on my brain that almost anything can trigger a flashback. Maybe because this trip to Disneyland wasn’t the first as an adult (although it was the first in almost twenty years). Maybe the three year-old child has faded from memory more than I knew. Maybe my parents didn’t take me often enough for it to become ingrained in the fabric of my mental make-up?
In a way, failing to have this sense of deja vu was a relief, to tell you the truth. Moving on.
After the triumphant ride on California Screaming, we finally crossed over to Disneyland and took the train to New Orleans Square for a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean. (Sidenote: for future reference, do the baby rides BEFORE the grown-up ones; this seemed sooooo tame after California Screaming, but okay…I get it. It’s not about the “thrill,” it’s about the…um…the animatronics? Whatever.)
Things get a little hazy from this point. I believe Splash Mountain was involved (another note to self: for future reference, do NOT sit in the front seat!!). I finally got to see Phantasm (or whatever it’s called). Kinda cool.
And the spectacular fireworks (further note to self: there are better places to see this from than New Orleans Square).
(Taken with my cell phone--how cool is that?)
Eventually, with our dogs barking like hounds from hell, we rode the Monorail over to Downtown Disney (who knew??) and made up for lost time with two cocktails and Nachos at the Rain Forest Café. More cuteness, of course. Growling gorillas and honking elephants. Oh, and the near fatal incident when Ann tripped going upstairs, nearly strangling herself on some rope (reminiscent of the infamous escalator incident of 2005). Then a cab ride back to the hotel.
In the morning, we checked out and got to the park around 12:30, instantly recognizing we weren’t the only southern Californians who’d gotten the news flash about the great weather. The line in the parking structure was a zillion miles long. Not to worry. While waiting, Ann and I drank champagne and munched on Triscuits with Cheese Whiz. (Hey—we’re like the Boy Scouts: Always prepared.)
Once we got into the park, to our great dismay, long, long, streams of humans greeted us everywhere we went. In fact, for the next couple hours, we only managed two rides: a repeat of Pirates (go figure) and Indiana Jones. Our Fast Pass for Space Mountain scheduled us for HOURS later, so we trudged over to California Adventure to knock a few items off our list, namely lunch and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Speaking of which, I have to give kudos to Ann, here. What a trouper! (Or a raving scaredy-cat, depending on your point of view). She waited in line with us…then took a hike out the exit! Meanwhile, Marty and I got strapped in and he started with the “regret” talk. Something about having promised himself he’d never do this ride again.
Man, I’m gonna have to find some new amusement park companions!
Anyway, what a blast! VERY short, but a real kick. I highly recommend it.
Next we zoomed back over to Disneyland in time for our appointment with Space Mountain. Again, y’know…cool and all…but doesn’t hold a candle to California Screaming. Oh, and once again, Ann did her disappearing act, and just as I’m about to step into the seat, Marty says: “I may have to bolt, too.”
I mean, COME ON, PEOPLE! These are NOTHING compared to Magic Mountain and Knotts Berry Farm! And you call yourself Disney fans???
Okay, so by now it was dark; probably time to hit the freeway, but no…it occurred to us that the 6:30 parade was about to start which left…hmm…no lines at Splash Mountain! Y’see, in our earlier logging forays, we’d failed to get a good picture, so this time we rehearsed: Ann and I would lean right, with Marty in the middle leaning left.
We didn’t count on the two big guys who scrambled into the seats in front. Oh, don’t worry. They didn’t spoil the picture. But they nearly capsized us! Poor Ann…soaked. Poor Marty…soaked. Me? High and dry in the back, thanks! (Which might explain the smile on my face and the "look, Ma--no hands" pose.)
With that, our journey came to an end (after a brief stop where Ann bought sweats for the drive home). Here are my final thoughts:
Um…all those backpacks gave me the shivers. Especially since the people checking them don’t exactly appear to be TSA trained…
The Fast Pass system is truly inspired genius. Ditto for the single rider passes.
Picking up your ticket at Von’s saves you mucho dinero. In my case, a two-day park hopper cost $91 versus $132 at the park. Take heed!
Disneyland is for all ages. (Caveat: unless you have problems walking.)
Hey, speaking of walking, check it out: I wore my shiny new pedometer, and guess what! We walked the equivalent of ten miles BOTH days (I’ve got the aching calves to prove it.) What you have to understand here is that Marty is the anti-exercise guy (which I’m sure he’ll dispute, but trust me on this) and there he was on DAY TWO—actually, EVENING TWO—SKIPPING down Mainstreet. Yes, SKIPPING. And with a SMILE on his face.
Monday, January 14, 2008
The Conejo Valley Shuttle (AKA Marty and Ann) departs chez moi around ten a.m. Saturday morning. En route, equipped with a new GPS system, we only get lost once (on a journey Marty’s made about a million times), detouring through Norwalk where Marty learns--to his delight--a Ralley’s Burger can be found on Imperial Highway.
We arrive at the Carousel Inn around 12:30 to find a beautifully updated 50’s style hotel worth every penny we shell out, and after dropping our stuff in the rooms, we hot foot it across the street to the park.
Decisions, decisions. Turn left into California Adventure? Or, right into Disneyland? We opt for the former since I’ve never been there. The line on this “newer” park isn’t stellar, so I’m not even that excited. But the instant we step foot inside, the sound of Bing Crosby singing “and I’ll make the San Fernando Valley my home” puts a smile on my face.
I’m ready for California Adventure.
To the strains of “Do You Know The Way to San Jose,” “California Dreaming,” and “Avalon,” we make our first stop at “A Bug’s Life.” Cute. You know. Just cute. Next we grab a fast pass for Soaring Over California and while we’re waiting for our “appointment” we check out some sort of roaring rapids thing (I forget the name). After getting thoroughly drenched, we hightail it back over to Soaring (where Ann gets her first case of “the pokies”) and I FINALLY get to experience a ride I’ve been hearing about forever.
Well, it’s okay. I mean, maybe it depends on which row you’re in. Personally, I’m a bit distracted by seeing the bottom of the screen and the row of feet hanging over my head. Whatever. It’s pretty cool.
Next, we wander further into the park where the “big girl” rides are. All along, I’ve been under the impression Marty will accompany me on “Screaming Over California.” Not so. The big chicken buck-bucks at the last minute. There I am, publicly committed to going on this ride, and my ego doesn’t let me change my mind.
I puff out my chest, assume an air of nonchalance I don’t feel at all, and march off to get a “single rider” pass. The closer I get to the front of the line, the harder and faster my heart pounds. Finally, I’m in the staging area. Courteously, I allow several riders to go ahead of me. Meanwhile, I’m nervously discussing the whole situation with strangers.
I feel so alone.
I feel like I do right before a pitch appointment.
The rational part of my brain starts in with you don’t have to do this. Just walk to the exit.
Another part of my brain—the part seldom heard from—says: think how proud you’ll be when you overcome your fears and successfully complete the ride.
Then a young nerdy kid—about ten years old with hair falling in his eyes and pants three sizes too big—says: “Can I give you a piece of advice?”
Yeah, that’s what I want. Advice from a ten-year old.
“The quicker you get on, the quicker it’ll be over,” he says sagely.
That does it. I take the next spot in line. Turns out I’m sitting next to a big, burly guy which somehow calms my nerves…like maybe he’ll save me if anything bad happens. The fact that his wife and kid are in the seat behind us and that he’ll likely save them first, I choose to ignore.
We prepare for takeoff.
I look up to see Ann poised to take a picture. I wave casually.
Zoom! We accelerate faster than…well…pretty fast. (Update: We're talking 0 to 55 in 4 seconds according to Wikipedia. Also, PLEASE NOTE all you Space Mountain fans: top speed is 32 measly miles an hour vs. Screaming's SIXTY-ONE. Wheeeeeeee!)
It feels…neat. Not scary at all. We climb and climb and I prepare for a sickening drop but instead we go into a banking curve and I relax. This is fun. This feels good. Seconds before we enter the loop, I feel a sense of eager anticipation.
The ride is over before I know it. Adrenaline is pumping, I’m ready to celebrate. I meet up with Ann and Marty who are laughing hysterically at a screen with photographs taken automatically on the last drop. “Look at that lady!” they cry with tears in their eyes. “Look at her hair,” Marty says, pointing.
“Uh, guys? That’s me.”
Normally, I would NEVER post such an unflattering picture. Please, please, please, remind yourself that we’re talking g-forces here. Oh, hell…maybe I really look like that with my hair blown back. It’s not a comforting thought.
Friday, January 11, 2008
I'm SO excited for these old, old, friends!
Meanwhile, I've put my new plotting tool to good use and mapped out the remaining chapters of the untitled WIP, so it's full steam ahead, dammit. I KNOW how to get from S to Z now. If only I could find time to do the actual writing.
Still...it'll be nice to have a fourth book to pitch at the upcoming Desert Dreams conference.
That is, if I ever come up with a title....that seems to be a requirement....y'know so that there's something other than the author's name on the front.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
A class act, that Morton's. First up, the menus. I didn't get it when Marty commented on them. Still didn't get it when he commented again. (I'm thinking, okay...they're paper, so what?) Then I looked again. Printed across the top: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTY! ! !
How COOL is that?
Next, the waitress arrived with her dog and pony show which consisted of a five minute spiel describing (and showing!) first, the various cuts of meat, second the vegetables...and last, but not least, the size of the lobster.
As she lifted it, Ann and I exchanged horrified glances. Is that thing MOVING?? Oh, yes it was. Sadly, as much as we both like lobster, we couldn't bring ourselves to utter the words that would amount to the little feller's death sentence. (And, I wondered how we'd have all felt if they'd paraded Bossie, the Cow through the dining room, too.)
Anyway, I ended up with my new system (detailed elsewhere on this blog). I shared a salad with Ann, then gobbled up garlic mashed potatoes (a HUGE portion, by the way), and two humongous clumps of broccoli.
Afterward, rumor had it that some of our cohorts were partaking in adult beverages at a place called The Sugar Mill, and since we were in the neighborhood, we ambled on over.
Oh. My. God. Could there be anything more depressing than a roomful of seventy and eighty year old alcoholics singin' along to the oldies? I quickly remembered why I never go there. Eek. I'm still shuddering.
So by now you're thinking the Marty celebration is over, right? Wrong. It continues this weekend, and if you're predicting a gambling journey, wrong again.
We're going to............................(wait for it).......................okay, all together now................
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
We all know execution is another matter.
I found my list was so long, it immobilized me. Overwhelmed me. Scared me sh*tless. I mean, when I got to page two, my hands started shaking.
Besides. Somewhere (not here) I posted some writing goals (AKA resolutions) for last year, and guess what? I didn't come CLOSE to achieving the ones I articulated, but I reached ones I didn't even know I had!
So much for writing goals.
Okay, if I must confess, here it is: I committed to completing the untitled WIP (I SWEAR, that's the title I'm gonna use since nothing else is popping to mind) by the end of March. Only, guess what? The sucker's still not finished. On the other hand, I wrote 13 short stories for True Romance--and they weren't even on the agenda, so go figure.
And as long as we're laying cards on the table, let's just say the personal goals for this year outnumber the writing ones. By A LOT.
Talk about even MORE daunting.
I heard one of those media shrinks claim that adopting a new habit takes three weeks and incorporating it into your lifestyle another six months.
To hell with that. I say let's call a moratorium on resolutions altogether.
*better known as: Ways to Torture Yourself With Feelings Of Self-Induced Inadequacy
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
How cool is this flower arrangement?? And, YES...that IS a flower in the center, not a feather. Don't ask me the name of it...cuz...y'all know I'm horticulturally challenged.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Let's see...where were we? Oh, yes. Randi and I arrived at the Wyndham Saturday afternoon...and promptly found our way to the Spa Casino where the highlight was a straight flush at 3-card poker. There, we also hooked up with Randi's old friend Jim who joined us for dinner at Las Casuelas. Afterward, we walked back to our room, Randi gave Jim a ride home, and I...fell asleep. At nine o'clock. (Yeah, I was proud, too.) Our first night in Palm Springs and I only gambled a couple hours and was in bed by nine. What a way to ring out the old year.
Sunday was better.
In need of new scenery, we drove to the Agua Caliente Casino where later we were joined by (who else?) the West Coast M & A's. As a bonus, our old friend Barbara (an occasional commenter here known as "Babs in the Desert") showed up for more fun and frivolity. Somehow we wangled a table at Agua Caliente's steakhouse restaurant where much reminiscing and laughter took place, then...um...I think...yeah, I'm pretty sure...we went back to the Spa for more gambling. That's where I hit my first four-deuces. I think.
Monday began at Sherman's Deli, a famous "must" for breakfast in Palm Springs, then a brief walk to the now-familiar site of the Spa Casino. Within a few short minutes, I hit my SECOND four-deuces. Felt weird to get lucky so early in the morning (and yes, the only kinda lucky I get is the gambling lucky, so get your mind out of the gutter). After that, things get a little hazy, but apparently, we spent the entire day there then rushed over to Agua Caliente to settle in for pre-New Years Eve gambling.
Which bring us to...where I was when the clock struck midnight. So sad. I was losing, losing, losing (yes, see...I DO admit there are times the Gambling Gods don't smile on me). Marty, Ann, and I were at some weird form of Texas Hold 'em table and I was SUCKING big time. And sooooo ready to get out of that casino. Anyway, the countdown went off, I'm pretty sure Marty and Ann kissed, and I folded with a three-seven unsuited.
Woo f*ing hoo.
Actually, it was okay. We had a blast anyway. And Marty didn't even put up a fuss when Ann and I begged him to take us back to the hotel.
(And so, for the record, I was in bed by quarter to one on New Years. Not a bad start for 2008, huh?)
The next day, Randi and I didn't waste any time getting out of town which turned out to be a good call since Marty and Ann got stuck in some godawful traffic jam only an hour later.
When I got home, I checked my year-end account with Harrah's...and let's just say THANK GOD for that jackpot in New Orleans!
Oh, well...if you know me at all, you know it's not about the gambling. Sorta like people who take golf vacations...it's not about the golf. Okay, I suppose it IS about the golf, but you get my drift, right? If it weren't for gambling, I'd have never seen Lincoln City, Oregon...or Biloxi, Mississippi...or...what's next, Marty??
Friday, January 04, 2008
Randi and I were Junior High buddies, two of a group of about eight girls with college, marriage, and parenthood still far away in the future. (Okay, so I'm only one for three. Whatever.)
Driving down to Palm Springs last Saturday, at first I went through one of those mental conversations you have with yourself: Who could have predicted that a lifetime later, we'd be spending New Years Weekend together?
Then, I thought: Well, duh. Why not? Quit being so melodramatic.
Anyway, food for thought. So there we were, yakking and navigating our way down the 118 to the 210 to the 15 to the...uh-oh. What happened to the 10? Suddenly, nothing looked familiar. And we'd gone way past the three miles where, purportedly, we'd pick it up.
Norco? I don't remember ever going through Norco to reach Palm Springs. Oh, well. We were hungry anyway, so we stopped at a MacDonalds and got directions. Yes, we'd missed the 10, but a new and exciting route awaited us.
We didn't care. We were too busy catching up on lives, loves, and...well, you know. All that girly stuff. Plus, I can cross off "eat at the MacDonald's in Norco" from my to-do list.
Here's another bonus. When I went hotel shopping for this excursion, I limited my search mainly to places within walking distance of the Spa Casino (where I knew we'd be spending a great deal of time.) Click, click, click...suddenly, one of those annoying pop-ups shot out of the screen, asking if I'd found what I was looking for. Usually, I hit the x and move on but this time, for some reason, I got curious. Okay, annoying pop-up...I accept your challenge. Show me something to knock my sox off.
And it did! I don't remember how it all worked, but I ended up on a site called Skoosh and they were quoting $86 a night for the Wyndham versus $186 a night at most of the other sites. I figured it was some kind of trick; a lure to an unsavory site waiting to rip off my credit card.
Then I saw the same price quoted elsewhere.
So I researched Skoosh, concluded they're related to Priceline, and decided to take the risk. The total (prepaid--which made me a tad nervous) for three nights with tax etc. : $316.80. On New Years Weekend.
Still nervous, I called the hotel a few days later, confirming they had my reservation and that, yes...it was possible a wholesaler had purchased rooms at the cheap price.
Score! We'd already "won" and we hadn't even begun gambling yet! Not only that, but when we showed up, the hotel (not the booking agency, the hotel) had us arriving...um...next year--as in December 29, 2008--so they didn't have the exact room set-up I'd reserved. No problem. They upgraded us to a junior suite at the same pre-paid price. Another score!
And that's how the weekend commenced...more later.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Here's wishing you a mess of wild deuces in the coming year...
Okay. Twist my arm. If you look closely, I won $416 on that bet...then on the next day, I did the very same thing AGAIN!
On top of a straight flush at 3-card poker!
(Picture taken very discreetly using cell phone at the Spa Casino in Palm Springs.)