A Novel Idea

I wanted to introduce you to the crazier side of me. I just signed up to write a novel in 30 days as part of National Novel Writing Month, a tongue-in cheek description of the event whose organizers do just this – inspire and organize tens of thousands of people to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days (www.nanowrimo.org). I have no business doing this, of course. I have never written a stitch of fiction. I have no idea what I am doing. Or even what I am doing contemplating such an adventure. In case you are wondering, but not able or wanting to do the math in your head, this breaks down to roughly 1,667 words a day. I can certainly type this many a day in a reasonable time (approx 1 ½ hours, according to the handy and very funny guide to this adventure) – whether I can make these words tie together in some, at least half way coherent story, is beyond me. I don’t know. And if I sit, staring blankly at my computer for 1 ½ hours and then start typing, this ‘reasonable amount of time’ idea goes right out the window. But this is all the point. The founder – a hilarious guy whose witty writing makes me sure that I don’t have the creativity to pull this off – assures me, and everyone else submerged in self-doubt (and who isn’t at a point when you sign up to write a novel in 30 days), that we will all be amazed at ourselves and our abilities when we are given a golden tool…..a deadline. AND, probably the biggest point is that no great piece of art will be written in 30 days. A crappy rough draft of a great piece of art? Potentially. And otherwise, having written a crappy novel, for a writer, is still better than having written no novel at all. There is something so gratifying about checking something off that one may just be able to ride that wave and then write, or at least come up with the idea for the next novel, which will surely be the work of greatness. Or whatever.

Me and a deadline, that golden tool mentioned above, have a relationship something like this. I receive a deadline. I mark it on my calendar and file it away. I make half-hearted posed as full-hearted efforts at getting to work and keeping to a reasonable timeline. And then approximately 3 days before the deadline I realize I am woefully behind, I stress and kill myself to get it done. And it’s an absolute must that I stay up until the wee hours of the morning before it is due in order to finish. And then I finish on time and hand in an end-product that is always decent, sometimes pretty splendid. Oh how I hope I don’t do this to myself in this adventure. 50,000 words is a pretty painful last-minute jam.

My other point in telling you about this, and there is a point, is that I am not sure that I will be posting during this time period. I may place in a few one or two liners to let you know that I am still alive and that I have not dropped out. OR I may post more than ever because I will use the blog as an excuse to do all kinds of other non-novel writing. Either way, it will be an adventure, so I thought I would let you know about it.

Perhaps most importantly, if ANY part of you are jealous (listen for a tiny voice that is perhaps shouting from far, far away) and wants to go on this crazy journey with me, sign up. You can thank me later. And in the mean time we can meet in coffee shops and make passionate typing together….or commiserate via e-mail if you don’t live near me. Come on…you know you want to.

My Heart and San Francisco

I have spent the last 5 days in San Francisco, a city which captured my heart 7 years ago and has never let it go. When I tell people that I love San Francisco the question that always follows, of course, is what it is that I like so much about it, unless they share this love, and then they just nod their heads in understanding. My answer to those who don’t already understand is almost always the same, “I don’t know….the architecture, the natural beauty, the attitude of the city.” But I actually think the most accurate part of my answer is the part where I say, “I don’t know.” While this isn’t a very fulfilling answer for people, which is probably why I feel compelled to expand, the truth is, I am not sure we ever “understand” love and things and people that we feel a real connection with. If someone asked me why I love my husband, I could give a list of things that I admire about him, but explaining that real connection I feel with him, I can’t do it. I don’t know why I feel that way towards him and not everyone on the street, especially because my spiritual beliefs are such that we have that exact connection with everyone in the world. But I don’t feel it for everyone in the world, so again, “I don’t know” pretty much sums it up. I just do. If someone would ask me why I love my children…. “I don’t know” would fit the bill even more. While I could create a list – they are adorable, amazing, funny, sweet and kind, etc. even more so than when describing my husband these list of things have absolutely no connection to why I love them. I just do. Indescribably so.

And so is my love for San Francisco. Indescribable. Before you think this is too weird, consider that cities are made up of the energy of the people living in them. When I lived here, every time I would return after traveling, I would breathe a sigh of relief to having returned “home”. There was a sense of peace that settled in my belly like some part of me was attached to the city the whole time I was gone, and after profuse and uncomfortable stretching, it was allowed to spring back into place. Like San Francisco, herself, was wringing her hands while I was gone, and when I returned, she rested again, knowing I had returned safe. We fulfilled each other. I continue to experience this sense of peace every time I return. Though this is not where I live, it is like it is still home for part of me.

On this trip in particular, I have really noticed how inspired I am by the details of this city – inspirational plaques are cemented into the sidewalks, unexpected sculptures pop out of concrete, sides of buildings and beautiful planters laid with bright, cheery flowers. Historical buildings and new buildings stand next to one other, melding, making time irrelevant. It is a city of art. A city of creativity. And I am starting to see that this is what speaks to me – what settles my belly. While I have not, in the past, considered myself a “creative” or an artist of any kind, the city has spoken silently to this side of me that was lying dormant. The city expressed a side of me that I was not outwardly expressing for myself. So maybe this is my answer to the question of why I love the city so, “because it speaks to the creative me.” People will either nod in understanding or look at me like I am a freak who belongs in hippy San Francisco. If it is the latter, then I’ll add, “and because of the beautiful architecture and the natural beauty.” It is all true.

As with anything, the city has it’s faults. I am not oblivious to the dirt, the anger or the poverty that create balance in this city of charm. And there are a lot of reasons I do not want to live here right now. Perhaps my two beautiful children will appreciate this city as much as I do one day, but it is not the place for us right now. Managing our day to day is challenging enough for me – I don’t feel the need to increase the challenge factor by living in 900 sq feet apartments, shuttling two small children between different modes of public transportation, crowded streets and traffic jams or paying exorbitant prices and jumping through exorbitant hoops to get them into preschools. I live in another creative community and for that I can be very thankful. And I know that San Francisco is here for me whenever I need her – to embrace me and stroke my hair and send me on my merry way to be the best, most creative mom/wife/being I can be.

A Slutty Feminist

Ok – I think this is cheating, but then, not really because this is my blog and I did write this. I actually wrote it last year, but I didn’t have a blog last year, so only my sister saw it. Now I’m putting it on my blog so my sister, my mom and my two best friends will see it.

Ahhh Halloween. A much celebrated, if not misunderstood, holiday. Despite it’s roots as a Pagan festival where one took stock of supplies and slaughtered livestock for winter stores, it has, of course, taken on a culture of it’s own today.  It is, paradoxically, both a dark and a silly holiday – a chance for people take on and act out other characters and potential alter personalities. There are scary ones like your run of the mill witches, monsters, grim reapers and fabled frightful characters such as Dracula or Warewolf. Then there are the classic funny ones such as your clowns, animals, prison inmates, pimps and ministers (some only funny because of the particular level of ‘alter’ in the alter ego of the costume wearer). Civil servants serve as another useful alter ‘hero’ ego – fireman/woman, policeman/woman, etc. Hollywood also gets it’s fair share of costumes – insert any ‘it’ movie or animated character, particularly those conducive to costumes such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Super or Spider man, etc.  And then there are the just plain weird ones – aliens, cavemen, mad scientists, and an all time classic, the nerd. And in this Halloween culture, there is a lot of room for a lot of good fun, creativity and self-expression. Even if the costume idea is not unique, e.g. all aforementioned costumes, one’s execution of it will likely be. And for these reasons, I have always been a fan of Halloween. But this year, while perusing stores and websites looking for that unique costume or costume idea, I have become disturbed. Not by the gruesome images of death and violence that accompany Halloween, but by the underlying assumption that all women’s alter egos involve being a slut of one form or another – a slutty fill in the blank. A slutty vampire, a slutty witch, a slutty policewoman, a slutty clown, a slutty waitress, a slutty nerd, or in the case of what I wanted to go as this year, a slutty butterfly. I have to wonder, what is the cultural meaning of this? Do all women (other than myself) want ‘walk the streets’, so to speak, one night per year?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am a feminist and believe in open sexuality. And if that is your true alter-ego that you want to let out once a year, then you go girl. However, I am disturbed by the fact that every costume has politely overstepped ‘sexy’ (as the description might say), and is clearly ‘slutty’. The costume descriptions sometimes use ‘sexy’ as the adjective, e.g. the infamous “sexy witch”, (which, by the way, I have been many a hallows eve) but for most, the adjective is not needed. If it is a woman’s costume, it is, for a lack of a better word, slutty. Almost any of these costumes look as if they could be worn on stage – and I am not talking about Broadway.

So as not to offend anyone in the Halloween industry, whom I am guessing are all male, I actually did do a couple minutes of research. I typed in ‘slutty Halloween costumes’ into Google and there were, indeed, slutty Halloween costumes…. “Scandelous pirate”, “Racy Referee” and my favorite, “Mile High Captain”. But on this same site, when I clicked on the plain-Jane “nurse costumes” category, all but the 2 children’s costume easily could have fit in the slutty Halloween costume category. At least the children have been spared. Well, our girls are spared dressing as sluts, though I am sure they notice these costumes in the search for their own, and truly frightfully, pine for the day when they too can buy smutty costumes. So, a message to those (likely males) in the Halloween costume industry – and I know it’s really hard to believe, but not ALL women want to dress like a playboy bunny.

But alas, I am left wondering….if the invisible hand of the free market has led us to where we are now, maybe I am out of touch with the wants and desires of the majority of the American female population.  I suddenly feel old, or at least old-fashioned. The salvation of the holiday, for me, has come in the form of Good Will. Not the kind where we are truly nice to one another (not on Halloween, sorry), but the chain of second-hand stores. It is here that the slutty packaged costumes are left hanging and girls and boys, men and women playfully pull together wacky outfits and old clothes to resemble, if not replicate, characters and alter-egos. It is a place where creativity and self-expression do flourish – and where I put together my chic-goth-one might even call it sexy butterfly costume.