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Posts tagged ‘Writing’

Cringing and typing: the blogger at age 15

Facebook. How you dredge up the past. I mean, this is pretty harmless, but it’s still dredging. A few months ago, a friend from a camp I attended in the summer of 1991 contacted me on Facebook, and sent along a pdf of a two-page essay I wrote when I was 15. I guess I was pretty proud of this essay if I was handing out to camp friends. Jesus.

English: Barnard College, New York City

Barnard College, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was a camp for young suburbanites to experience the splendor of the big city: a month living in a dorm and taking classes at Barnard College, in New York. It was paradise for the slightly awkward, slightly arty teen. We traipsed up and down Broadway like we, as many other fresh, eager-types before us, owned it. We dicked around campus, and museums. We were self-proclaimed masters of the M4 bus. We ordered Chinese takeout to our rooms like big shots, stayed up late, socialized on uncomfortable common room furniture, and amused ourselves with an endless series of inside jokes.  They must have been OK jokes, though; several of the people I lived with at 49 Claremont Avenue are still my good friends. And I mean in the real world, beyond Facebook. PCP ’91!

We bought ten-packs of subway tokens in tiny plastic bags and went way downtown on the 1/9 to Greenwich Village, which is still my favorite place on earth. Sometimes we messed up and got on the express and just hung out at Chambers Street, whatever. Everything was exciting; as much fun as we had going to Shakespeare in the Park and a Violent Femmes concert at the Beacon Theatre, we had roaming the aisles at Love’s Pharmacy. We were old enough to shop for our own shampoo, old enough to decide when to go eat at Tom’s Diner, when to go the dining hall, and when to sleep through class.

I wrote the essay in question in high school, in 1990, for a writing contest (which I won, that’s right!). My friend found it at his mother’s house as she was clearing out old things.  And if I have the stomach for it, one day I’ll go through my parents things, and find the rest of the things I wrote at this brash and hopeful time, which I think even includes poetry inspired by Sylvia Plath (yikes), and my college essay, in which I described my love for the mysteries of New York, and why I wanted to go back, across the street from Barnard, to Columbia. Which I did.

As punishment to myself, I will retype the entire essay, resisting to the urge to correct anything or insert commentary on poor turns of phrase, or missed opportunities for jokes, and let it be. I am not sure why anyone would want to read it, although I still think it’s kind of funny, but if a blog ends up being nothing but a chronicle of one’s self, to be read at a future date, and wonder why, then this needs to form a part.

The Origin of Soul: The Story of Creation

 

In the beginning, there was James Brown.

That’s all there was. No glinting silver moon, no life sustaining sun. The stars were not the watchful eyes of heaven, and no beavers built their dams on the nonexistent churning blue streams. No pine trees shaded the eyes of prancing human beings. There was no life, no universe.

No universe, that is, until that something, that supreme, superior being, that godfather of all creatures, James Brown, felt good. He felt so good, so powerful, just as he knew that he would, that he was sparked with the divine inspiration to create the Earth out of soul, a sharp scream, and brown polyester.

The Earth, soul kitchen, sea of raving fans soon to be, and James Brown’s dance floor. A quick dance step, a quiver of his hips, and there was his glowing disco ball, pure and simple, ready for him to adulterate. What magic, what wonder! That was the first day.

On the first night, Mr. James Brown threw a party, a bash for the masses of nothingness. To decorate and shine proudly upon his new world like his white teeth, he created the sun, the moon, and a myriad of twinkling stars. Hallelujah!

On the second day, James Brown felt nice. So, hence appeared an abundance of humans, sugar, and spice. There were plenty of women, and no jive. The party continued, as it always will, and this time the decorations were the forests primeval, and the oceans blue and teal. Mr. Brown wore his earth brown suit to match his Eden.

On the third day, James Brown did another nifty little jig and created the party animals to follow him and worship him like no other. The panthers, cheetahs, and cockatoos loved their Creator with all their dancing hearts.

And the earth was complete! Glory be, James Brown created Grooveday (now called Sunday, as the term “groovy” is passe), to rest in his yacht in the gleaming Pacific and recover from hangovers. He had now earned the much deserved title of “The Hardest Working Man in Creation.” So be it!

But, as nothing is perfect except the master himself, evil–sinning, blade-sharp evil–began to spawn and grow within the Godfather’s own sideburns. Wars wreaked havoc across the earth, and the globe, once crystal blue, was now tinged with black, stinging crime.

English: James Brown, February 1973, Musikhall...

February 1973, Musikhalle, Hamburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Why, oh why,” the people wanted to know, “did James, the Man, thrust this upon us?”

As they did not want to take responsibility for their own actions, James Brown’s sons and daughters sent him to the jail cell to purge all the world’s sins. Heartbroken and stained by his own blood, The Almighty Brown sent M.C. Hammer, musician in disguise, to rule in his place.

“That will show them!” he thought, as his feet were bound and halted from grooving. “The fools know not what they do!”

And lo, show them it did. During the years our James, our Creator, was sadly incarcerated, the world was driven to tears by the horrid sounds of the Hammer. Finally, the people broke through the clogged-up tunnel, saw the light, and praise Soul! James Brown pounded the pavement once again! He forgave everybody.

And the world, and James Brown, and all the party animals in the forest, felt good once again. Amen! Hallelujah!

The legend of Zelda and Zoe

Zelda with her new boss, Zoe.

Zelda with her new boss, Zoe. Note: not my mother pictured, but our dear aunt Pom Pom.

It makes me sad to think of how most of my daily childhood treasures have probably ended up in a trash heap somewhere. Well, I’m not the only sad one; think of the Toy Story franchise. But it’s sad nonetheless. Whatever happened, for instance, to my Communist Barbie? Someone had to play Miss U.S.S.R. in our makeshift Miss Universe pageants in the basement playroom. So I cut off her matted blonde hair into a spiky do, and Barbie became a breadline-hardened Brigitte Nielsen that always came second to Miss U.S.A. I can pretend she’s keeping other similarly-shorn, well-loved Barbies, Kens, and Skippers company in a cozy daycare somewhere, but, more likely, no claw ever could save her from the fires that awaited.

As you can tell by my lack of respect for Barbie’s golden locks, I didn’t have the most girly of girlhoods. I slept in a yellow bedroom, and wore red and gold Danskin playsets to nursery school, or plaid kilts. My mother didn’t care much for pink, or princesses, which is fair enough. She also wasn’t that sentimental about things, nor did she ever imagine that these toys that she eventually tossed had hearts and feelings of their own. A wise lesson for a harsh world. I tried to take that lesson on, but I still can’t ever throw out a piece of paper with my mother’s handwriting on it, no matter how many school worksheets of mine would have been recycled, if recycling had been a thing when I was in school.

Now, as I fill acid-free boxes upon boxes with my son’s kindergarten scribbles, I realize I have to relegate some to the great recycling bin in the sky, if I don’t want to appear on an episode of Hoarders. And I understand my mother’s drive to declutter; I can hardly see clear to the end of a day if I need to wade past piles of kid stuff to get there.

So the best drawings get kept, and the coloring sheets and letter practice go. I wonder which of my boys’ possessions will still be here when we are all older? I have a few ideas (a scruffy teddy bear, a huge bin of Legos no one will ever make sense of again, a tattered copy of Captain Underpants).

Never to be recycled.

Never to be recycled.

My two boys like to get fawning attention by kissing the odd baby doll, and cruise each other toward bruisin’s in a doll stroller I bought them, but they are really not interested in inheriting mine. Though Communist Barbie got tossed just as the Berlin Wall came down, my childhood baby doll Zelda is still around, and she’s found a new home: with my sister’s daughter, one-year-old Zoe. It was meant to be! The two Z’s, Zelda and Zoe, zestily zipping together to Zanzibar, or Zagreb, or somewhere. New Zealand.

My parents gave me Zelda when I was a baby. She wasn’t fluffy, or pink: she had a hard plastic head and arms, yellow hay-like hair, and a red and white dress. And I schlepped her around the house dutifully like many a baby would. And now, Zoe sweetly does the same. Zoe and Zelda.

IMG_7229

I asked my mother why she named my doll Zelda. Surely that name wasn’t on the box. I though maybe because she wasn’t the daintiest of baby dolls, or looked slightly witch-like, that the name fit. It was too soon to name her after The Legend of Zelda, the videogame, so that wasn’t it.

“We decided that we were going to start at the end of the alphabet,” my mom said. “So I thought of Zelda. There was that girl, Zelda, on Dobie Gillis, I think I got the name from her. Zelda was always the smarty-pants in the gang.” My only other association with the early 1960’s TV show, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, is that Gilligan was on it, as the beatnik Maynard G. Krebs. But the show was cancelled long before I was born. Long, I repeat, before.

dobiezelda

I appreciate that my mom chose to name my doll after a “smarty-pants,” and not some gooey, helpless, princess type. Thanks to Zelda, and my mother, I consider myself a smarty-pants to this day. It’s not a bad way to be. Because Wikipedia was invented for such smarty-pants who need answers fast, I decided to look up what happened to the original Zelda, the actress Sheila Kuehl.

It turns out she went to Harvard Law School and became the first openly gay person elected to the California legislature! Way to carry the flag for the smarty-pants of the world, Sheila Kuehl!

I am glad that my Zelda, saved from the fire, is now with my little Zoe. And hopefully, starting with Zelda and her raggedy endurance, I can pass onto Zoe all the things I learned since the doll was my own: to start with the back of the alphabet, go your own way, be a smarty-pants, and take care of what’s important, what’s your own. Especially, future Zoe, your poor old aunt. Will you take future me to the library and the diner when my future sons have forgotten to call? Please, future Zoe?

[This post was written for the WordPress Daily Prompt: Prized Possessions. Question: Describe an item you were incredibly attached to as a child. What became of it?]

My Year in Blogging: Wiggles and Wiggins!

Who are we? How did we get here? These are the ancient, universal questions that all bloggers must seek to answer. If they want more hits on their blogs. Why does my blog exist? I know my parents read it, but who are those so wholly unconnected with me that visit? WordPress was kind enough help me develop a creation myth for Five Uninterrupted Minutes. 

I love the statistics WordPress provides on the people who read this blog (aka my new best friends). And the most fun thing to do when I want to feel like I am blogging, but don’t want to write anything, is to look at the country map on the Stats page, and see where in the world people are clicking on these pages. I like to imagine glowing screens in places like Uruguay, Estonia, Mongolia, and the Maldives, where web-savvy readers gather round to chuckle heartily at my musings on parenthood and things I watch on TV.

Or, more likely: “I searched for X and have no idea how I got here.” Here are some of the actual search terms that have brought people here:

Colorful rugs for preschool in india Can’t help you there, good luck though

Jonathan Crombie is creepy NO HE’S NOT YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY GOT THE WRONG BLOG

What happened to Bob Costas’ face? Too much Botox, I reckon

I have a crush on Gil from Bubble Guppies AGAIN, MOVE ALONG

Is Norman Fireman Sam’s son YES

Aside from a surprising number of queries as to “why do divers use such tiny towels?” – a question I posed during the Olympics (here’s the answer, in case you are one of those people who seeks this information), the number-one topic that people came to Five Uninterrupted Minutes to read about is, according to WordPress Stats: What is up with Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins’ sideburns? Yeah, that. Hilarious/poignant observations on family life? No. Facial hair on some bloke. Who won a bike race.

Bradley Wiggins

Guess those sideburns don’t slow him down: it’s Bradley Wiggins (Photo: Brendan A Ryan)

Bradley Wiggins has quit Twitter, probably because of twits like me that ask these inane questions [But is it really so dumb?]. So I am afraid this one will remain unanswered. Far be it from me to question a knight of the realm. The best answer I can give is to direct you to this interesting documentary about the UK Sports Personality of the Year – Bradley Wiggins: A Year in Yellow from Sky Atlantic.

So to sum up: the top country for blog readership: the USA [where I know the most people], followed by the UK [Wiggo], and right up there at number three is Australia, because apparently there are a lot of people down under who are mystified, hurt, and confused about the Wiggles breaking up. And then they end up here, to read Oh no, I accidentally broke up the Wiggles, my most-viewed blog post of the year. I never set out to write about Australian preschool music, but there you go. Come for the Wiggles information, stay for the essay I wrote about “show-shaming.” Why not?

Most people from Oz got here because of some variation on the search terms “Sam Moran fired” and “Wiggles break up.” So many that, when you Google “Wiggles break up” my essay is the fourth item that comes up. Which is good, I guess? One even came here by typing “Captain Feathersword does not look happy.” Too right.

But sorry to disappoint you, I am not the Yoko Ono of the Wiggles. I did not break them up, by accident or otherwise. But in the spirit of giving the people what they want, I will endeavor to answer some of the burning questions posed to the Google gods.

English: The Wiggles performing at the MCI Cen...

Toot toot, chugga chugga. Later, Sam.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why do the Wiggles sing in Greek sometimes? I have wondered that myself. Anthony Field, the last man standing of the original Wiggles line-up, has a wife of Greek descent. Opa.

Does Murray Cook have children? Many people seem to be curious about this. Yes.

Lately, I have had many people seeking news of “anthony field affair.” So maybe there is a Yoko Ono of The Wiggles after all. I can’t speak to the matter, even as a Wiggles Expert (at least according to Google search algorithms). But I can link to stuff, so you need not seek further. Click here for an article. Also, for those who can’t get enough Anthony Field: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Wiggle (via The Australian).

That last article gets extra points for having a good title. And that brings me to an important lesson I’ve learned about blogging from obsessing over WordPress stats: A good title will get you far. Oh no, I accidentally broke up the Wiggles? Lots of hits. An Ode to the Dreamcrusher, my next biggest blog post, which was also Freshly Pressed? Solid title, sweet hits. But Missing Teeth? I like to think it’s a good essay (who wouldn’t want to read about my family’s strange teeth? I mean really!), but the hits there are not quite as sweet. If anyone can think of a better title, I’d be obliged.

The other thing I’ve learned is that writing about topical, newsworthy stuff is obviously better in terms of generating an audience. I wrote a few posts about the Olympics, to good effect. August was my best month of the year for viewers. But the Olympics won’t be back for another year (Sochi 2014!). Dash it all to hell!

So I’ve got a Google news alert going on to let me know when the Wiggles drop some major news bombs. And when they do, oh, I will be there.

I’m still waiting. In the meantime, maybe I can just pepper my essays about children’s books and my strange Italian relatives with words like Super Bowl! and Justin Bieber! and see how that works.

Justin Bieber

Belieb it! (Photo credit: cukuskumir)

This blog is only nine months old. I haven’t been at it even a full year, but blogging has made writing central to my life again. And I am grateful for that. In this time, every connection I’ve made with a reader has been gratifying (My favorite comment of the year? From someone called Johnnyboy: “I’m stoned and I have no idea how I ended up here, but I like your review of Moonrise Kingdom.” Success!). Every time I hit the “Publish” button I feel good. It’s one more thing I wrote that I couldn’t write a year ago, or two years ago, when I felt so blocked. Being here has helped me start writing again after having kids, and I am proud of what I’ve accomplished so far, and excited to keep going.

Thank you WordPress! And thank you for reading! I am looking forward to Super Bowl! another year of writing Oscar Buzz! and connecting with other writers Kate Middleton! and readers Gangnam Style!

Top five reasons why a new blog post is so very long overdue

It’s been well over a week since I have posted on my blog, and I tell you, it eats at me. I just haven’t found [see blog title]. But really, I have some legitimate excuses, uh, reasons, for not posting in a while. Here are the few of things that have eaten up all of my [see blog title].

Hurricane Sandy (2012): 60 km Wind Area Forecast

Hurricane Sandy (2012): 60 km Wind Area Forecast (Photo credit: Canadian Pacific)

1) Worrying about Hurricane Sandy. I type this faster and more anxiously as the wind whips up outside, and even though here in Boston we are well away from the center of the storm, school has been cancelled and the T has been shut down, so we are all four at home today. Read: no me time. Just lots and lots of we time. Which is great, great, great, of course. So instead of finishing my next post, which has been sitting in my draft folder for some time now half-finished, I have been drawing Bubble Guppies for T:

And I didn’t win the Art Award in sixth grade because why? No, I’m not bitter.

Daddy is taking charge of C’s homework (brought to you by the letters S and U, cut from magazines), so I have a few minutes on the computer. I’m typing fast. And when the time for the heaviest winds arrives, I’ll close the laptop and start pacing back and forth in front of the TV as Pete Bouchard tries to conceal his excitement about storm surges and gust MPHs and astronomical high tides. These meteorologist guys live for this, don’t they? They rub their hands in glee while we worriers wear pasta pots on our head waiting for the trees to come crashing down upon us.

English: The 2003 Tour de France on Alpe d'Hue...

The 2003 Tour de France on Alpe d’Huez, with Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso, Haimar Zubeldia, Roberto Laiseka and Joseba Beloki. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2) Everyone else is blaming Lance Armstrong, so why can’t I? As a cycling fan, I have been completely consumed by the stunning revelations about Armstrong’s alleged doping. Of course, when T was asleep and C was at school, I dropped all important chores and tasks to read the 200-page “reasoned decision” published by USADA, as well as the Tyler Hamilton book. I have had Cyclingnews constantly open in my browser. And like many others, I have been dismayed at charges too hard to ignore, and at watching elder statemen of the sport fall one by one. Another day brings another admission of guilt, another tarnished record, another achievement that was too good to be true. I’m not an expert, so I don’t feel qualified to say much about it. So I will leave it to known Mod and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins to say it best:

“It’s a sport I love and have always loved. It’s a shame that cycling is being dragged through this again. It’s not a shame he’s been caught. As you get older, you start to realise that Father Christmas doesn’t exist. And that was always the case with Lance.”

Bradley Wiggins racing to Gold in London 2012 ...

Wiggins wins the gold in the time trial, London 2012. (Photo credit: EEPaul)

You have to love this guy. I choose to believe Wiggins has never doped, because that’s what he says, but who’s to know for sure? Who can we trust? Ever? It’s sad that I wish Cyclingnews would publish a list of definitively clean riders, so we could have something to hold onto while the sport goes through this wrenching, scorched earth period that it must endure to restore its integrity.

3) Oh yeah, there’s that election. And Halloween.

C’s “master plan” for Halloween. Or the election???

4) We took a trip to NYC to visit my family and take C to see the Space Shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid. Out on the flight deck of the old aircraft carrier, we passed rows of fighter planes with teeth painted on them and helicopters just wide enough for one person; I imagined them flying like whirring envelopes. And there’s the Captain’s bridge where you climb narrow stairs to talk to WWII veterans who were stationed on the Intrepid, and see an officer’s cabin where there’s a calendar from the year the ship was decommissioned (1974) still on the wall.

Beyond all of that, a temporary bubble houses the shuttle. Inside, the Enterprise floats above our heads in a cloud of blue, like that model of a huge, blue whale at the American Museum of Natural History. Just as hushed, just as commanding of respect. I wonder how the Enterprise will fare during the storm? It’s been through much more, I suppose.

The glowing ship.

5) Sorry, I had to watch Downton Abbey again. It just had to be done.

Obviously.

There are a million things to do, and there always will be, and they are calling me now. But it still makes me glad to know the blog is there, and I will get back to it in the next few days. But as I write this, the house is shaking; there is a big gust. My heart is beating faster. T will wake up soon. I’ve drawn the shades but I know the branches are bending and leaves are streaking by. I’ll need to start pacing soon, and pottering around, putting Legos back in bins, making meatballs, reading stories, vacuuming up crumbs, doing all the things I do to put the fear and worry at the back of my mind.

I hope everyone stays safe!

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