Monday, December 31, 2012

Fur Before Mortgages?

My brother's dog and I have loads in common, well beyond the brown eyes, headstrong natures, outrageously good senses of hearing, and shrewd hunches about people and the faraway noises we're able to detect so distinctly. We live for long walks in the snow, being driven around in cars, eating whatever is there for the chewing, and stretching out on my dad's living room couch. However, when it comes to nervous energy, he takes the cake. I'm the rock.

We've had a week from heaven together and when I go back to New York, he'll be my hardest goodbye. When I went away to college, the biggest homesickness-related adjustment was this business of living without animals. With the family and friends I missed, there were phone calls, emails, cards, and letters; with the animals, all channels of meaningful communication were sharply cut off.

Someone once told me that she won't officially feel like an adult until she owns a house. I (an apartment renter) have felt like an adult for many moons, but has that feeling been official? Unofficial adulthood is intense; an official version sounds like it could reap more returns. I won't officially feel like an adult until I'm finally ready to adopt a dog or cat of my own. I was born for the role of mollycoddling primary pet caretaker.

I'll take the house(s) too - the Catskills house, the Bermuda house. Those could be fun investments. But first comes the four-legged fur. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Flight or Fight

A little more than a year ago, I hailed a cab at 4:30 a.m., pulled my suitcase in after me, and told the driver I needed to get to LaGuardia airport. As we drove up Broadway, he asked me who I was running from.

Excellent question, but where to begin? A more revealing line of inquiry would tap into who and what I am running from.

Early-morning flights always seem like a productive idea at the online-booking stage, especially if you’re in a first-rate mood and sipping coffee or wine at the time. You fall into full-on Carpe Diem mode, figuring that once the aircraft lands you’ll have the entire day ahead of you and this will be a good thing. It’s only the night before the flight, when you’re futzing around at 1 a.m. and realizing you need to physically be inside of the airport in 5 hours, that the gravity of what you’ve gone and done begins to sink in.

What does being a night owl mean to me? I consider myself a martyr every time I wake up before dawn.

Another Martyr Morning has come, I’m in full-on Carpe Zombie mode, no amount of caffeine will snap me out of it, and I can’t sleep on planes. The last time this happened, I made a promise to myself: This is it. I’m never booking an early-morning flight again, and this time I mean it.

I’m much better with the promises I make to others than I am with the ones I make to myself. But New Year’s Resolution season is as good a season as any to bring a new operating strategy to my table. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Semple Sale

Every so often, I read a work of fiction or creative nonfiction that’s memorably uplifting enough to help lure my concentration away from reports of mind-blowing tragedy. I recently wrote a short review of Maria Semple’s dazzling Where’d You Go, Bernadette, most of it is pasted below, and I recommend the book to anyone who is attracted to intelligently funny writing.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette
By Maria Semple
Little, Brown and Company (336 pp.)

What’s it like to be all grown up and frighteningly gifted? In her sophomore novel, former TV comedy writer Maria Semple (Arrested Development, Ellen, Mad About You) offers a glimpse into great genius or, more tellingly, what can become of those who have it and let it go to waste.

Bernadette Fox, a creatively stymied MacArthur grant-winning architect with a Marie Antoinette complex, has moved from Los Angeles to Seattle with her Microsoft-hotshot husband and their destined-for-hotshothood teenage daughter – suffice it to say the relocation hasn’t gone very well. It’s only a matter of time before Bernadette becomes grievously turned off by the “gnats” (her Seattle neighbors) in her midst and frustrated with her own frustrations, culminating in her impulsive climb out of her home’s bathroom window (with the aid of her chief gnat-nemesis) and subsequent international vanishing act. 

The daughter, Bee, serves as the rivetingly fast-paced novel’s narrator as she tries to make sense of her mother’s geographical and personal journey. The rest of the narrative is a “So Where the Hell Is She?” spin on the “Who Dunnit?” motif, filled with e-mails and other forms of newsy correspondence that spot-on capture the unique brand of self-righteously idle pettiness that can all too frequently pervade hyper-privileged American cities and suburbs:

I don’t know who I’m more furious at, Bernadette Fox or Gwen Goodyear, for calling me out in the Friday Folder . . . I created the Diversity Council. I invented Donuts for Dad.

Plot- and character-driven fiction that’s as smart, witty, and imaginative as great contemporary literature should be.   

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Spam-ish Verses

One of my new neighbors has written me a poem. A fairly long piece that opens with sexist sentiments.

I hadn’t seen the chauvinism coming because the first time I spoke to him (not even a full week ago), he promoted a book he’s publishing which is centered around the groundbreaking theory that “a woman’s power isn’t below the waist, it’s above the waist.” (At the “above the waist” bit, he aggressively pointed to his head with an index finger.) Readers will evidently need an actual key to unlock the page-by-page magic.

“Let me know when you have free time, so we can sit down and kick it,” were his final words to me….until we met again in our elevator on Saturday afternoon.  

“I have something for you,” he said.

“Oh yeah?” I asked, while scrolling down and re-reading my text log from the night before, which included an alert about my Yahoo e-mail having been hacked. Everyone I’ve ever communicated with via that e-mail account has received spam in my name.

“Uhhhh-huhhh,” he said, just tickled with himself.

“What, that book of yours?”

“Nope. Something else. A surprise.”

He said he’d leave it (the poem) outside my door that night. Too many people in this city know exactly where I live.

My door-buzzer rang later that afternoon when I was eating noodles at my desk, rallying to go back out. He handed me a reusable plastic drawstring sack that contained the poem (written on a ripped-out sheet of spiral-bound notebook paper), a necklace, a T-shirt, and a bag of Hershey’s Kisses.  

“This is your Christmas present,” he said, with a sternness more commonly seen in distant uncles by marriage.

How’s that for coming through with the type of customized care package I requested last week? Valuable lesson learned: If You Blog It, It Will Come.

Here’s the next request I’m putting out there: I wouldn’t mind getting some poetry from a few more folks, and cannot wait to review the stanzas that stream in soon after this post goes live.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Micromanaged Care Mail

I mailed out a customized care package a few days ago (a small and understated one - “receive it with love, receive it with realism,” I heads-upped the lucky boy it went to), which is something I haven’t done since Bush II was chief. Earlier this year, I sent someone else a set of flowers from a local “floral atelier.” The care package I could have sent instead would have cost a third as much and would have meant more to both of us.


In addition to not having sent a care package in some time, I haven’t received one in just as long. Think twice before underestimating the days of cracking open pricelessly personalized shipments of affection, brimming with everything from homemade Toll House cookies to music mixes to construction-paper drawings from grade-school children.

I’m not normally one to fish for presents. That said, the customized care I currently crave includes:  

*One jumbo rainbow-swirl lollipop  
*Fingerless gloves
*A handwritten note that will make me laugh and cry, ideally all at once
*A blow-wand bottle of bubbles
*Something kitschy that’s representative of the sender’s town or region
*A beeswax or soy wax scented candle
*A surprise, which should in no way overlap with the kitschy keepsake

Anything without petals.

Monday, December 3, 2012

‘Tis the Season to Be SITS-ing!

It’s finally December! Although I understand why a lot of people don’t like the holiday season, I’m not a part of that crowd. This late-November-through-late-December cycle gives me an annual second wind.

Today is a holly, jolly holiday for my blog, c/o the SITS network - 40,000+ female bloggers who look out for each other’s online interests. It’s a melting-pot community that embraces former TV writers, current bartenders, bakers, wedding planners, environmentalists, hair-care enthusiasts, mompreneurs, nurses, and everyone in between. Each weekday, SITS showcases one network-member blogger - and today it’s yours truly. The Roving Retorter site launched in February 2010 and my goal is to make sure it doesn’t take its last breath until I do.

Happy Holidays, thanks for swinging by, and I hope you decide to come back soon!