Party of Five: Tidings of Comfort and Joy

1. I’ve decided I’m only going to eat at hot dog places from now on. The guys behind the counter always address me as “Miss.”

Yes, I know I’m a Mrs. Yes, I know they do this to every female between the ages of 4 and 94.

But the clock is at less than 90 days before I turn 32. (32!) I need my fountains of youth where I can get them.

2. Let me sum up a less-than-satisfactory dining experience we had Friday night: the Mr. and I paid $80 for fried perch, french onion soup and Coke. In Wisconsin, the bill wouldn’t have broken $20. To add insult to injury, we were treated like we were at a Chili’s. And I was addressed as “Ma’am.” Do I even need to elaborate further? No, no, I don’t.

3. I will be published again at Marta Writes on Tuesday! During this go-around, I will be instructing readers on how to receive a gift, an essay I wrote back when leaves were on the trees and we didn’t have to wear coats outside. Either way, please stop by.

4. This is my new favorite blog. I’d kill for a tenth of the author’s sass; who knows what I could accomplish?

5. I’ve been thinking about Christmas concerts lately. And The Nutcracker. I priced Nutcracker tickets with the Joffrey Ballet… they go for $120.10. Per ticket. Yikes!!!!

4.

The Beckoning of Lovely – 10/10/10

Remember when I went down to Millennium Park in October and wrote a cryptic post about it? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go read that post. This post will make a lot more sense.

Now that you’re edified, the film of that Sunday night in the city has been unleashed onto YouTube. Watch it here:

Yes, I know that it’ll take 10 minutes of your time. It’s worth it. I promise. You may see a fleeting glimpse of this correspondent during moment 2. (Hint: I’m in a group of redheads.) Anyway, it was a great experience and I wish Amy Krouse Rosenthal all the luck in the world with her feature film, set to be released November 11, 2011.

#reverb10: Writing

The act of writing often leaves me shaking in my boots.

Putting finger to keyboard doesn’t paralyze me. Nope. It’s the fact that the product has to sound good. Innovative. I want the stuff that comes out of my head to be something that keeps a person’s interest. I want my words to resonate with the reader. I want the reader to like what I have to say. I don’t want my writing to suck.

Believe me, this is not a plea for sympathy. I know that all writers are insecure about their work. I know that as an industry, we compare ourselves to others and find our output lacking. I know that I am capable of stringing words together into sentences and crafting paragraphs out of those sentences and taking it Bird by Bird, as Anne Lamott advised.

But Babe Ruth didn’t hit it out of the park during every at-bat, and neither can I. That’s what gets me. I recently submitted an essay about my wedding planning experience to a popular blog. Even though I worked on that essay for four months, I don’t think it’s going to be published; it preaches to the people-pleaser, it complained a bit and it wasn’t a dead-on match with the style of submissions published on the website.

Other people would just get over it and write something else. But I’m a special snowflake! I have wanted to write something, anything, since I hit “Send” Tuesday morning. But I haven’t; I’ve only been able to think about how that essay won’t be published and how much my writing sucks. That doesn’t put me on the expressway toward productivity.

If you know me, you know this: I get in my own way about 99.7 percent of the time. I know it too, but it’s something I need to remind myself so I can shut my (ever so neurotic) id up and get things done. Sitting around telling myself how awful of a writer and person I am doesn’t help anyone. I need to be kinder to myself about writing. I think I can start this by re-reading Bird by Bird. If I do, who knows what you’ll see here?

(What am I doing?:Reverb 10 (#reverb10) is now an annual event, an inspired response to (and evolution of) #best09. It’s an open online initiative that encourages participants to reflect on this year and manifest what’s next. It’s an opportunity to retreat and consider the reverberations of your year past, and those that you’d like to create in the year ahead. )

Gobble Gobble Hey: 7 Things I’m Thankful For This Year

Thanksgiving! Turkey! Stuffing! Family! Football! 50 foot balloons! You know the drill.

What’s often lost in the shuffle on the fourth Thursday in November is gratitude. I certainly am someone who forgets to count her blessings from time to time. I just wanted to get it on record today that I do go back and reflect how lucky I am.

1. I am thankful for my husband. I just realized we met at La Perla in Milwaukee 4.5 years ago today! (When we hugged outside of the restaurant, I knew that he would be the one I’d marry.)

But enough about 2006. His wit, intelligence and caring have made our four years of dating and five months of marriage pass with hyper turbo speed. He makes me laugh when I need to lighten up, he amazes me with how damn smart he is in all things, and he greets each day with a smile. He’s the ketchup to my french fry…. ok, I need to stop now.

2. I am thankful for my family, both old and new.

3. Unfortunately, health problems occurred with my mother-in-law, father-in-law and mother this year. While I am not thankful for that happening, I’m very happy that they weren’t worse.

4. I am thankful for the wedding, and all the people who helped make the events of June 26, 2010 happen. I had a good time. Husband had a good time. Most reports from the field showed that attendees had a good time. It wouldn’t have happened without our cast of wedding elves.

5. Thank god I’m employed at a place that pays a living wage, gives me interesting work to do, allows me to commute with my husband, offers health insurance and allows me to go home early on days before major national holidays. (If we had left work at our normal time yesterday, it would have taken us 2.5 to 3 hours to get home. Thanks, Chicago traffic!)

In the long run, thank god I’m employed.

6. I’m so happy we have Kitty and Moose. They enrich our lives in ways I can’t express.

7. I’m so grateful for creature comforts, such as: Saturday mornings, my iPhone, road trips, This American Life, A Practical Wedding, cable tv, Culver’s, people who read this blog, changing seasons and The Old Town School of Folk Music, to name just a few.

What are you grateful for? Spill it in the comments.

‘Cause his name can be said by anyone

We had some bad news delivered by phone Wednesday night. The husband and I were still in the suburbs when the call came, so we had a lot of time for him to call other relatives and for me to ruminate and worry as our car crawled toward the city. (An aside: why does everything else seem to slow to a crawl when Bad Stuff happens?)

In the course of the husband’s phone calls, it was decided we’d pick up one of my brothers-in-law and go to the hospital. But first, we needed to stop at home. Due to the insane traffic, we turned left one street further east than usual. I played with my phone as we drove down the street.

To my surprise, the husband shouted, “MAX POWER!” He doesn’t usually shout that. Then I looked to my right. What to my wondering eyes did appear but a blue Mini Cooper with the license plate “MAXPOWR.”

For the uninitiated, Homer Simpson changes his name to Max Power during an 1999 episode of The Simpsons. Max has a great theme song, which the husband has been known to sing once and again. Please see below:

A small weight lifted off my chest as we passed the car. It also helped that my mother-in-law reported the situation was improving.

While we can’t change what happened Wednesday, we can be thankful that the situation wasn’t worse.

Some days that’s all one can hold onto.

Audience Participation Time

I did it! I bit the bullet and joined Netflix! If you click on the picture to your left, you can see my queue thus far… the only movies I’ve seen in it are American Beauty and Lost In Translation. (I just want to see how they hold up through the sands of time.)

That’s where you come in: after you’ve seen my queue, what movies do you recommend for me that I’ve missed? (Keep in mind that we’re a non-Twilight household. As always, thank you for your support…

An Update from Choctaw Ridge

The Winter 2010 issue of Venus Zine* hid a big surprise for me – an article about Bobbie Gentry. In a publication filled with artists I haven’t heard of yet, seeing an article about someone I could place was not only interesting, it was a relief.

But enough about my coolness withering at the vine! “Who the hell is Bobbie Gentry?” you ask. Well, she was a country artist in the late 60’s, who had a monster hit with “Ode to Billie Joe.” “Ode” tells about a hot June day with some interesting news at dinner. Watch for yourself!

Venus Zine writer Tara Murtha says the hook of the song is in its mystery. What did Billie Joe throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge? Why did he follow that object? Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys wrote answer songs.

Gentry never gave us the answer. Murtha details Gentry’s career, which led her to Vegas shows, a BBC chat program and the Armed Forces Radio Network. After an appearance on Johnny Carson in December 1978, she stepped off stage and didn’t look back.

The rest of the article details Murtha’s search for Gentry, who is purported to be living quietly in the Hollywood Hills AND a part-owner of the Phoenix Suns (!) The biggest lead she received was a box of memorabilia from a man who says he’s related to the singer. And, as the article ends, Murtha’s planning trips to Los Angeles and Mississippi to learn more about Gentry for a bigger project, maybe a biography.

I wish Murtha the best of luck.

(*In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote for Venus Zine’s web site in the past.)

Season of the Witch

Some artists work in oils. Others deal in pastels.

My medium of choice is lists. The following is a set of points detailing my weekend:

1. I approached the “Rally to Restore Sanity” with cynicism. I wasn’t the only one; my brother called it “The Gathering of the Smuggalos“.

My whole attitude toward politics has been pissy and reluctant this election season. (It doesn’t help I live in Illinois.) “Why bother?” I’ve caught myself thinking. “The GOP is only going to win everything and send this country back to 1952.”

But I digress. What I saw of the rally, I loved. Stephen Colbert never fails to make me laugh. Both Colbert and Jon Stewart reminded me that I am proud to be an American (where at least I know I’m free.)

I especially enjoyed Jon Stewart’s remarks at the end of the rally. Well, except for the part where he forgot he was part of cable TV’s 24 hour news cycle. I’m sorry, if you are a guest on CNN’s Crossfire AND help to get the show canceled, you are a part of the system.

Still, I raise my can of Coke in Stewart and Colbert’s general direction.

2. My brother and I drove around South Central Wisconsin after the rally. The plan was to go miniature golfing in Wisconsin Dells, but Pirate’s Cove dared to be closed.

So we sang instead. If you heard us warbling along to songs like Ratt’s “Round and Round” and Tom Petty’s “Into the Great Wide Open,” your ears will heal soon. We hadn’t had a bonding experience like that in years.

3. Here’s what I wrote about Halloween on Facebook: “The vibe around my neighborhood tonight is less ‘Look at my son in his costume! Isn’t he darling?” and more “I will f*ck you up if I don’t get any candy.’ It makes for an interesting night.”

You mean Halloween is actually scary? Who knew!?!?! To be fair to the Northwest Side, we didn’t get back into town until after 7, when many darling children are getting ready for a dreamland brought to them by high fructose corn syrup.

4. Two thumbs up to Jesse, whose byline was recently seen in the Wall Street Journal. I am so proud.

South Haven, MI - October 2010

Here’s what’s on my mind tonight:

We’re watching the Packer/Vikings game right now. I must say, I am disappointed that Brett Favre wasn’t showered with pairs of Crocs upon his arrival at Lambeau Field.

(If you don’t know what I mean, Google it. At home.)

On the fllthy lucre front, there’s a writing job I could apply for. What’s stopping me is the fact I haven’t written much for publication in the 5.5 years I’ve been away from journalism. Nor do I have anything in the way of references.

I guess the worst they could say is no. Right?

Party of Five

Currently on V is for Victory…

1. I enrolled in an online screenwriting class through a local college’s External Education department. What have I gleaned from the course thus far? I could teach circles around this professor. I mean, she doesn’t even issue feedback on our homework. Here’s what she said to me in a response to a post I made on our discussion board about not being able to consume cinema like I did back in the day:

“I would like to see you watch a film and then ask yourself how can I make it better?”

Aaaaaaaagh. She has a flipping master’s degree and doesn’t even know her punctuation? Jesus.

To make a long story short, I need to get off my hinder and get an MFA. It’s an expensive way to prove a point, but what the hell?

1a. I found a Young Adult book at Borders yesterday which nearly shares my screenplay idea. Do I move forward with the screenplay? Maybe, because will it ever be produced? No.

1b. Remind me to tell you about the summer I taught writing to four middle-aged women at The Octagon Center for the Arts. Amazingly, my students didn’t think I was full of shit.

2. I’m tempted to follow in this guy’s footsteps and get a tattoo of the outline of Wisconsin somewhere on my body.

I won’t do it, because my mother would kill me dead. What I may do instead is watch Etsy for something like this.

And really, who am I kidding? Could I deal with needles in my skin? No way. I’ve got eleventy million freckles and some scarage and to then have the state of Wisconsin just announce itself on my body is cognitive dissonance at its finest.

3. I really want to sit down with a bunch of Mad Men DVD’s and watch until my eyes bleed and I’ve got the shakes.

4. I soon will be volunteering at The Old Town School of Folk Music. Most volunteers assist during concerts, but I really want to help promote shows or wrangle new members. Wish me luck!

5. Oh yeah! Let me share this e-mail I got from someone at Sound Opinions, The World’s Only Rock n’ Roll Talk Show. The show’s Facebook page asked listeners for their favorite scary songs. I immediately thought of “Possum Kingdom,” by this group of Texans called The Toadies.

Here’s the song in question. I invite you to watch… if you dare!

I wrote: “A song which never fails to send chills down my spine is “Possum Kingdom” by the Toadies off their album Rubberneck. As “Possum Kingdom” begins, the listener is asked to walk around the lake with the song’s narrator. But as the song progresses, the lyrics and bass line turn sinister. The narrator’s motives are never explained, but by the end of the song he repeatedly asks “Do you want to die?” You don’t hear such a question in popular music today!

The Wikipedia entry about “Possum Kingdom” therorizes the song may be about a vampire seducing his latest victim, among other scary stuff. In this era of sparkly vampires, I’m surprised “Possum Kingdom” hasn’t enjoyed a revival.”

They said, “Great pick, Tori! You’re right, it’s probably high time for a Toadies revival.

Take care,
Sound Opinions H.Q.

My ego exploded all over myself and others after I read that e-mail.

Will my pick be discussed on the show? It’s yet to be seen; they’ll have the Halloween show next Saturday at 11 a.m. on WBEZ.

I bet other listeners came up with much better picks then I. (Here’s hoping the words “Marilyn Manson” aren’t said.)