Monday, October 27, 2014

Seeking to Hire an Unflappable Personal Assistant, Who Will Report Directly to Me

Method of payment: Popsicles (flavors negotiable) and the privilege of blossoming under my tutelage.

Benefits: See above.

***An internal candidate has been identified but (promises of popsicles notwithstanding) has not applied for the position - yet; thus, I am still accepting applications and will consider a handful of qualified candidates***

Responsibilities (Minimum 2 weeks of related experience):

*Short-order cooking, baking, tailoring, and document shredding.

*Starbucks, grocery store, and drugstore runs. And I mean that literally, especially on the way to these places. Your pace must be no slower than a steady, 11-minute-mile jog.

*Serving as the chief middleman between my super/landlord and me.

*Serving as the chief middleman between lots of other people (located near and far) and me, which will include answering my door every time the bell rings and, if the ringer offers a “Can the Dead Live Again?” pamphlet, gamely responding: “Damn right they can. Just the number of Jerry Garcia tribute bands on the Atlantic seaboard alone shows that the Dead is as eternal as Beethoven and Billie Holiday.”

*Treating my birthday as a national holiday (without expecting to get the day off) and profusely thanking me when I, in turn, treat yours as one.


*Spirit, guts (which are fancy words for confidence); remaining highly energetic, but calm, all at once.

 *Proficiency in not only rolling with the punches but in not hesitating to roll out some of your own, when the situation calls for it. I’m essentially looking for an unarmed version of Mikey from season 1 of The Sopranos.

*Must know CPR and best practices for nursing a wound after someone (who will go unnamed) has tripped and fallen on concrete, really scraping herself up again.

*Must never take an expression/concept like “dance like no one’s watching” all that seriously.

*Must have at least one big dream and an even bigger fear of not attaining it. You must be someone who will not settle for or limit yourself to popsicle stands for too long and will treat me to a few popsicles when your time comes.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What Nine Out of Ten of the Best Writers I Know Have in Common

My reaction to finding out today is National Day on Writing:  

                                   Image courtesy of           

Malala Day is one thing, but National Boyfriend Day was October 3rd? Can September 17th or 18th be International Fizzy Water Day? That’s around the time, one year ago, I started falling hard for the stuff.

At least a few times a year, and most recently last Wednesday, people ask me for specific writing advice. What makes a good piece of writing? How can they improve their own writing? They’re not aspiring creative or professional writers as much as those who have come to realize that strong writing is as marketable a skill as tech-savviness.  

I give them a few small practical tips, such as getting rid of all unnecessary words and sentences to help keep the final product as short and streamlined as possible. I can think of several good books that could have been great books if the total word count had been chopped in half; and dozens of brutally rambling e-mails I would have taken more seriously if even two paragraphs had been knocked out.

But here’s my #1, big-picture, tip: avoid “how to” manuals on becoming a better writer and become more of a reader in general.

Many say those with solid liberal arts backgrounds (lots of coursework in English, history, philosophy, etc.) make the best writers – and, from my experiences, these people usually do write noticeably well. But one of the most effective writers I know is a former trophy wife who didn’t make it past the 7th grade and grew up on welfare. She’s just always read tons of great books, short stories, essays, and articles, which is why: she has impeccable grammar and storytelling chops; her vocabulary could match that of any Oxford don; and it’s upsetting to think of how many more opportunities would have come her way if she also brought formal “coursework” to the table.

Ninety percent of the most talented writers I’ve personally known would put reading for pleasure toward the top of their list of hobbies. They’re rarely without reading material during subway rides and might listen to the audio versions of books while driving long distances alone. They read during commercial breaks and long customer service hold times. They read to calm down and to rev up. It’s how they’ve rolled for years, if not for the better part of their lives, to the point where they have gradually absorbed what strong writing looks and feels like, producing strong writing of their own becomes second nature, and “National Days on Writing” become four more unnecessary words. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

An Earful

Someone’s dog once jumped on my lap to kiss me and, before I could kiss back, sucker-jumped my ear, ripped out my earring, and ate it. All in less than 10 seconds. I wasn’t mad at the dog. I could never be mad at an animal. I’m mad at the dog’s owners. Instead of an apology or an effort to make amends, I got, “Oh, how funny! He wants what he wants,” before they changed the subject, never speaking of it again. I didn’t think it was funny. Looking back on it, 15 years later, it’s not something I laugh about, it’s something nobody should ever remind me of, unless they want a 10-minute tirade that usually concludes with, “and I’m still owed a minimum of 14 karats.”  

I just sorted through the earrings section of my jewelry box. I’ve had and lost so many. They’re like socks and boys and drinking buddies and ideas. One minute they’re there, making me giddy; the next minute they’re missing and I smirk at how well I can live without them.

Back and forth, back and forth. That’s where I go whenever I think about whether I should throw out a pair of studs a hippie jeweler in New England sold me years ago. When I told her I was looking for opals, she said opals are a sad stone and bad energy, it’s a sign that I’d lost one of mine, it was time to change courses. That in jewel metaphysics, imperial topazes are good energy, so I should buy a pair of those. She also mistook me for a marathoner – there was a marathon in town that weekend, and she implied that I looked like someone who could easily hold her own in one. Not long after that, I pulled out my wallet and said, “Opal who? I think you’re onto something, imperial topazes are my next logical step!”

But opals are my best stone, my birthstone, and it’s OK to be sad. No opal has made me as sad as I was when these imperial topazes started looking funky after a few months of use. The topazes have become earrings I wouldn’t be caught dead in or posting a picture of. Before I retired them, people having a conversation with me would suddenly stop talking, furrow their brows while staring at my earlobe, bring their heads closer to my head, and ask, “Is there even a stone in there?”

I’m keeping them. I’m treating these topazes the way I treat retaliatory e-mails – as evidence. I loathe imperialism. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

This Is Morphing into More of a Passion Than a Hobby

So many times have I texted an acquaintance, only to receive nothing in return. Days or weeks or months later, when these acquaintances contact me about something completely unrelated, I confront them about the earlier text. And they’ll insist they never saw it, that they got a new number, that my: “Remember the chiropractor guy from that piƱata party last year? I just ran into him at the Hell’s Kitchen Rite Aid”-ish message might have gone to someone else who wordlessly read, formed an opinion about, and deleted it.

I’m not like that. I let all mis-texters, such as the following person who texted my number from her gmail account, know they’re headed down the wrong path.

Gmailer: Hey Brew! My phone isn’t working but I wanted to text to make sure u can still do my hair tomorrow.

Me: You got it! What do you have in mind this time around?

Gmailer: I know I want a side part!

Me: Now why is that?

Gmailer: I just like it better.

Me: But why though? Does it change who you are?

Gmailer: Are u texting the right person? Lol

Me: I’m just thinking. Have you ever considered letting your hair grow and do its thing naturally?

Gmailer: Yea I will after this one. Over the winter probably late November until spring I’ll give it a break.

Me: Glad to hear it, but why not now? What makes “this one” so different? Still just thinking about the way things are for us. For us women.

Gmailer: Girl y are u getting so deep?! Lol. I have homecoming and stuff so I just wanted a fab weave for that. Last year I went weaveless in the winter that’s when I normally give my hair a break.

Me: Oh yes I am getting deep. Who says you shouldn’t work the look you were born with? Own it? Love it? Is it any coincidence that weave rhymes with leave?

Gmailer: R u ok??? This doesn’t seem like you. Are you joking? I would call u but my phone is broken.

Me: I’m not joking at all. What happened to your phone?

Gmailer: Oh ok. I’m not sure where this is coming from but if it bothers you no worries, I don’t have to get it done. I dropped my phone in water :(

Me: It’s coming from my heart and soul. Which is all that matters. And consolations: the phone-in-water thing really is a bitch.

[It went on, but not forever. The moment the mis-texter slips into silence, my work there is done.]