Friday, August 17, 2012

Why I Did Nothing on My Summer Vacation ... and Stuff


Busy as a damn bee. Busy as that damn bee's mother with her swarm of bee babies that always need honey and nectar and their little larval backs scratched because their wings are popping through and they're outgrowing that octagonal cubby where they live. And they all need damn bee shoes because they've outgrown the pair from last year. And one of the bees can't tie his shoes so he needs Velcro, but please, don't tell the other bees. They'll point and laugh and buzz buzz buzz all the way home. (The mommy bee tries to reassure him that Einstein couldn't tie his shoes, either, and he was a super smart bee. It will all work out, little bee.)

So, yeah. Busy. There's a misconception floating around that if you're a writer, you're rich. Guys, like 0.1% of writers are rich. The rest? We're working jobs. We're driving carpool. We're answering to The Man because, until our Great American/_________ Novel hits the shit, until we have That Magical Dream and write the Novel of the Decade, or until we steal an idea from someone who had That Magical Dream and write bestselling Magical Dream Fanfiction, we gotta make rent, just like the rest of y'all. (Okay, I'm super uncomfortable using the word "y'all." I'm from Oregon. It just doesn't fit. Maybe I should put on a wool sweater and ride my bike around the block in my Birkenstocks and sip coffee or maybe a beer, and then it will feel right. Nahhhh ... never mind. I take it back. "You all." Phew. Better.)

But I digress. I work sort of a lot. Usually seven days a week, and while those aren't all 10-hour days, something is being done all the time. I have a difficult time sitting still. As such, I don't leave the house unless I absolutely have to or unless I'm going out to the coffee shop parking lot to write. People don't get this. They get mad at me. Some stop calling, which makes me sad. But I got stuff I have to do, and it's like when you're a little kid and you've only got a few bucks, and you know you want baseball cards and ice cream, but you gotta make decisions -- Mike Schmidt or daiquiri ice? I gotta make decisions. I have X amount of time, and Y number of things to do. I'm not good with math, so let's just forget X and Y variables and agree that I wear a lot of working hats.

Here's a duck that my friend Sue sent me, picked up during her recent trip to England (because Sue leaves her house all the time):

One of these days, I will leave the house and go to England and see All the Pretty Things.
Sometimes I don't like venturing out into the world because I get nervous. If I leave the house, someone might break in. There's been a rash of B&Es in our neighborhood. We have nothing of interest to steal (the bad guys can take our LCD TV, the one Husband bought at the Smallville set sale, but then they'll get it home and realize that the back of it is melted from being placed too close to some lights while on set and shortly after will learn that the sound doesn't work and that's why it was cheap. Suckas! Even though it must be noted that we were the first suckers because we didn't know this about it until we got it home ourselves, soooo ...), but the idea of leaving and someone touching my underwear freaks me out. Oh, and then there's parking. I hate parking lots. If you guys lived around here, you'd see why. People do not know how to drive. And Canadians -- my dear, dear Canadians -- PLEASE, learn four-way stops. Before I pop an aneurysm waiting for you to figure that shit out. And crowds. Lots of people in a single place? I'm sorta fussy about dance space. While I'm a natural people person and I've been known to bust into a stand-up routine waiting in line at Walmart (I'm Scotch Irish -- I can bullshit with the best of 'em), generally speaking, people confound me. Especially mean people. 

Which brings us to this: I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE ARE SO MEAN TO EACH OTHER. I was raised to be considerate, kind, give the guy behind you, the fella with only a jug of milk and some prunes, your place in line because you have two carts full. Smile and say hello to folks. When you ask someone how their day is, mean it. Give a shit about what they have to say. Give up your plastic chair on the pool deck to the pregnant lady. Don't stand so close to someone or barge in front of them, simply because you're you and thus more important than the rest of us. And please, hold the door for the folks walking in behind you. I cannot tell you how many times I have been almost slammed in the head with a heavy door because the people in front of me were SO inconsiderate and absolutely oblivious to the world around them.

And you folks who think all Canadians are nice? Ummm, Canadians are people. That means they're just as crotchety and snarky and impatient as all the other people in all the other countries. Except maybe Saudi Arabia. I hear they get extra points for being particularly crotchety.

Now these people weren't mean to me. My girls Angeline Kace and Heather Hildenbrand sent me a present from their recent adventure at the UtopYA convention in Nashville:

I have really nice friends. :)
Anyway, does being a homebody sorta suck? Yeah. I watch all my online friends taking their kids to Disneyland and hiking mountains and visiting the Louvre and swimming the Nile (you guys do realize that the Nile is dirty, dirty, dirty ... you could die from swimming in that shit, I'm telling you), while I continue to plug away and search and hustle for pennies. Writers are not rich. It's important you know that so that when your favorite up-and-coming author has a new book come out, you understand that she likely doesn't have tons of free books to send to you. (I'm not talking about ARCs, or advance reader's copies. That's a different beast altogether. But as for the finished product, her publisher makes her buy those books, albeit at a discount, but still ...) When you hear that So-n-So got an advance for $100,000, that doesn't mean she got a check for $100K. That means the money is promised to her over the span of a couple of years, in pieces, minus taxes and agent fees, chopped into bits that probably look something like 50/25/25, spread over 18+ months until the book comes out. Likely you already know that (most) writers aren't rich. That's why your parents told you to get a real job and pull your head out of the clouds because writers are losers and, sure, go ahead, if you wanna eat ramen for the rest of your life and shop at Goodwill and wear knickers that belonged to someone with cooties.

Go ahead. Knock yourself out.

Or maybe that was just my parents. Whatever. It's not important. That's what therapists are for.

So yesterday, I left the house. For a few hours. My children needed fresh air. I stopped working and took them to the local pool. Canada's big on recreational facilities in, like, every town. We have pools. We have ice rinks. We have curling rinks and hockey arenas and weight rooms and yeah ... it's pretty cool. (For the record, I have never curled. I likely will never curl nor will I watch a curling match. Unless I'm drunk. I might do it if I'm not aware that it's actually happening.) We went to the wave pool, which is indoors. Which was okay, because it was 36 C outside (96.8 F for my Yankee friends), and my sons have pasty white-boy skin that will burn like back bacon. We avoid outdoor pools to protect from harmful UV rays. Well, that, and I refuse to get into a bathing suit, and the outdoor pools are too deep for one of my wee swimmers, and so, we go indoors. No one drowns. No one gets burned. Win-win. Oh, and they have coffee. Coffee's good.

Another reason public spaces challenge my balance? I see everything. I am hyperobservant. I notice it all. I notice the 13-year-old girl who walked by in a cute tween-style bikini in which the top was about to sproing free because the little plastic clasp that holds it together between her shoulder blades was mere millimeters from slipping out of its loop. (I would've told her but I didn't want to come off as creepy. Because who notices shit like that? Oh. Me.) I notice the guy who shaves circles in his very hairy pecs so we can see the tattooed portraits of his children (okay, so a blind person would notice that one -- it was hilarious -- but he should shave his back while he's at it. FUR COAT, guys, no joke). I notice the people with Band-Aids on baby toes because they think that will prevent the spread of their plantar warts. And the guy who didn't think I just saw him wipe a booger into the water.  

Social phobias aside, the pool is an awesome place to notice All The Things. Bored housewives who don't know what else to do with their time, so they spend day after day poolside, reading mommy porn or playing Words with Friends on their iPads because letting Little Mary splash in the waves is way better than having to answer her unrelenting questions or chase her around with juice boxes and Goldfish crackers or, God forbid, listen to that freakshow from Yo Gabba Gabba one more time. Or the  little rich kids whose disinterested nannies would obliterate standing World Records for Fastest Texting Thumbs. Or the new immigrants, lined up along the wall waiting for lessons to finish, who've enrolled their offspring in every available swim course secondary to their own fear of water and the fact that BC has lots of water so we should all know how to swim, damn it. (This just makes me feel like shit because my kids aren't in swim lessons. I'm a bad mother. But, we never leave the house to go on boats, so even if the kitchen does flood, no one's going to drown today.)

Or how about the big guy in the mauve polo shirt and designer dark-wash jeans with fancy-pants tablet in hand and cyborg Bluetooth plugged into his closely coifed head, talking WAY too loudly so that everyone would be Oh So Impressed with his wheeling and dealing -- "HA ha ha, that's a good one, Bob, but let me tell you how I can sweeten that deal" -- and the woman standing next to him who was tolerating his banter because she didn't have the balls to tell him to get stuffed, likely because she's exhausted from around-the-clock breastfeeding for the chubby bald baby strapped into forest green Baby Bjorn across her chest. He had the chubbiest feet. (The baby, not the cyborg guy.) I really wanted to touch those chunky little toes. 

Or how about the woman next to him practically screaming into her cell phone in a language I couldn't understand as she blocked the crowded walkway with her giant overstuffed stroller while her toddler opened her wallet and dumped coins all over the floor (all small coins--nothing worth fighting over or I woulda been in there like a fly on stink), which she ignored or didn't notice because she wouldn't stop yammering into her phone, completely oblivious to the fact that there were other people in the space near her, some of whom were trying to get through to the changing rooms. 

Or the pasty white guy in the pool, the one with the thinning gray hair, goggles at the ready -- the guy who didn't seem to have any kids with him but was sitting against the wall in the wave pool nonetheless, surrounded by children, and then he decided to hold his breath and go underwater for a spell ... PERVERT. 

Or the morbidly obese, heavily tattooed woman in the teeny tiny bathing suit, her boobs flopping all over the place and more than a little nipple showing because the top is way too stretched out. Oh, that poor elastic. THINK OF THE CHILDREN. Babe, I applaud you for flaunting your junk like that. I won't wear a bathing suit in public. But seriously, maybe you shouldn't, either. (Oh, and you should see an aesthetician about the, uh, hair. They have ways to take care of that, uh, hair.) 

Or the kids whose mothers bring chips and cheeseburgers, or foreign foods that smell like dead sea life, and they spill it all over -- the table, the floor, the chairs -- and then they go into the pool too soon after eating and they BARF, like the kid did in the shallow end of the big pool, so all the lesson classes had to move into the wave pool until the chunks were filtered and the water was shocked with enough chlorine to make a respectable bomb.

When headed to the pool, I take work with me. I try to read. But I can't stop watching. All of this life going on around me. Writers watch. All of it.

If you're a writer, I challenge you to do this very thing: go to a public place and then write down EVERYTHING YOU SEE. If you're a reader, I ask you to appreciate that while you're walking through the mall picking your underwear out of your butt, I'll probably see it and add it to a character some day.

And now that you are lost up this stream of consciousness without a paddle, I will share THIS:

Duckies from London Sarah. She sent me presents. I loves her. The little gold one is lip balm.
I was planning on talking about superstitions and why there are certain topics I will never write about, but while sitting atop this ladder to replace a broken mirror, a black cat strolled through with the remnants of my lucky rabbit's foot.

Share your summer stories. Go watch some people and report back. It's all grist for the mill, friends. Share, share, share.

Xs and Os ...