Monday, June 28, 2010

On Finding Thesea (Or, Any Dead Body Will Do)

A few days ago, I spent less than 48 hours on Florida’s Treasure Coast enjoying some girl time with my friend Jennifer. If you’ve read my most recent post, you know about the swimsuit shopping fiasco, but wait till you hear what that ocean air can do to a girl.

It all started when I arrived in Jensen Beach…which is usually where things do start, I realize…upon arrival. (Note to self: work on story openers) So I was excited to change into relaxation mode, having driven 2 hours through rush-hour traffic. (Okay, that’s a lie. Traffic actually wasn’t so bad, but saying it was creates the necessary tension to segue into the need for winding down.)

I had barely unpacked when Jen offered me a mixed drink in a plastic cup and said, “Let’s take a walk on the beach.” Which was right outside her back door…literally (that’s for Missed Periods ;-)) Okay, so it wasn’t literally because her back door is eleven flights closer to heaven. But after taking the elevator back down to earth, we were there.

We’re walking along the beach with waves rolling in so loudly we have to raise our voices to hear each other as we sip from our plastic cups. (We might as well be in a crowded club.) Can’t be more than twenty minutes that have passed when we both realize the breeze here is reeeeealy strong, which must explain why we’re having a hard time keeping our balance. Or maybe it’s that we never had dinner and have just consumed a double shot of God knows what.

We make our way back upstairs where Jen prepares us a snack while I peruse her apartment, checking out the d├ęcor. There, on the kitchen wall, is this picture:

As you can see, the letters are written in all caps and are very close together. So perhaps you’ll understand why I ask Jen the following:

"Who’s Thesea? Why do we need to find her?"

I seriously ask that.

Jen looks up at me and says, “No more drinkie for you.”

* * *

The next day, I find THE SEA, and we spend our time, sans alcohol, enjoying a more appropriate stroll along the beach, collecting colorful seashells (and even a crab leg), and enjoying not having to do anything for anyone else. It feels good.

View from Jen's 11th floor apartment

Self-potrait: I actually look tan. Ha!

So when night falls again, we want to head out. Except that in this town, there is no night life. In fact, Frommer’s has this to say about the town we are in: “Nightlife on the Treasure Coast may as well be called nightdead because there really isn't any!”

We spend a couple of hours at a charming but sleepy outdoor bar on the intercoastal...

Sunset view from charming-but-sleepy outdoor bar

...and spend the whole of our time there fighting the ocean breezes in a losing battle against keeping our hair out of our faces.

For a brief moment, we actually win that battle. (At least I do.)

Then we head home to close up the night by leaving our cell phones in the apartment (So bold we are!) and sitting on the edge of the deck, watching the foam of the high tide pour onto the shore. We can see this perfectly because a full moon illuminates the midnight sky as if God has lit a soft lantern just for us. We are bathing in the serenity of the moment, feeling grateful to have this chance to love and respect what Mother Nature has powerfully created.

Morning shot taken from where we sat on the top step of the deck

Then, in a town with nightdead, we begin to imagine the wonders going on beneath the water’s surface.

Jen: Wouldn’t it be cool if the Loch Ness monster suddenly came up out of the waves and came to eat the seaweed on the beach?
Me: (shaking my head) It’s 84 degrees out…at nightwith the ocean breeze. Scottish Nessie would die of heat stroke in our sea. Now, a dead body washing ashore…that would be cool.
Jen: (looking at me incredulously) Oh, really. What would you actually do if that happened?
Me: I’d run upstairs and call 9-1-1.
Jen: (giggling) And then we’d put on our makeup and get all dolled up so we look good on the live news cameras.

Apparently, there isn’t enough serenity in the world to erase dark thoughts or vanity. And Frommer’s was obviously spot on when they described this town as dead. It's what brings about conversations such as the one Jen and I had.

Still, it is a beautiful place where I was able to see this from Jen's balcony when I awoke the next morning.

I don't know what Frommer's says about the Treasure Coast sunrise, but dead body or no dead body, waking up to this view was more stimulating than any adventure I didn't have.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Swimsuit Shopping (Or, Guess! what I didn't buy)

Ask most women what the two most heinous errands they might have to run are and most will agree they are shopping for jeans and shopping for swimsuits. For the moment, I'm good on jeans. In fact, I recently cut sugar out of my diet (for a variety of reasons) and have since lost 8 pounds, which means I can wear my skinny jeans again! All you women out there know that I'm not talking about the trendy today-fashion of skinny jeans. No. You know better. So for all the men out there, I'll explain that a girl's skinny jeans are the ones she bought at her thinnest but usually can't wear. They sit in her closet awaiting the brief escape from her normal eating habits when she can finally get back into them. It ususally only lasts a few weeks, but hey...if it happens, it's a thrill. And when she jumps off the wagon, those skinny jeans will remain in the closet for an eternity, serving as a motivational icon of what could be.

Anyway, you would think that if I can fit into my skinny jeans, I'd have no problems going swimsuit shopping, which was my actual task at hand this morning since I am leaving this evening to spend a few days with my friend Jen at her beach condo on the coast. Being the non-snob that I am, I started at Target, planning on hopping over to Walmart if I did not divide and conquer at Target.

I tried on five suits of varying style. With each suit, I looked in the mirror at my 5'-6", 125-pound frame and thought, How can I look this bad? I looked around the dressing room stall for the special lights that focus directly on the derrier to accentuate the cheeks that hang out from the swimsuit bottom, but I could not find them. So I looked for the magic mirrors that capture the image of a relatively flat stomach and then alter it to include waves, dimples, and small rolls. But I couldn't find those either.

I imagined the women (Lord, I hope they're women!) watching me through their security cameras as they laugh and shout, "Now, while she's got her back turned, full power fluorescent lighting to make her skin look sallow against the print of that suit!" *cheers among the crowd* "Well done, ladies. From the expression on her face, she obviously thinks she's a fat pig. That'll teach that skinny bitch to go swimsuit shopping with pride."

They obviously don't work on commission.

After failing miserably at Target, I decided to simply cross the road and go into my local mall and give Macy's a go. Walmart was so far away, plus I had lots of Macy's coupons in my car. Decision justified.

In Macy's I tried on another five suits. But since this is Macy's and not Target, I decided they have more advanced technology in their dressing rooms. They must have mirrors that can capture my image, alter it with some Photoshop-type program, and reflect it back to me with the 8 pounds I've just lost plus an additional 10, for good measure. Need I say that I walked out of that dressing room with no potential purchase in hand and the strong urge for a shot of Tequila? And I hate Tequila!

Here's a trick mirror that works in reverse. The stores definitely don't have one of these.

I walked through Macy's with a heavy heart (and apparently a much heavier behind than I'd envisioned) and was making my way to the exit when I spotted the absolutely cutest blouse in the whole wide world. I may not know my own butt, but I sure know what makes my chest look good, and this blouse was the goods. I quickly tried it on in the dressing room of a different department (where such trickster mirrors are not necessary...unless you're trying on jeans) and was thrilled to see that I was right. Yay, I was right about what would look good on me. *audible sigh of relief followed by the harsh realization that I should not be walking out of Macy's with anything but a swimsuit*

Ignoring my inner voice of reason (sorry, hubby, but sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do), I paid for the Guess! brand blouse, got my 25% discount, and left Macy's with a big smile on my face. As for how I'll feel about wearing a black blouse instead of a bathing suit while baking in the sun with Jen, can't say just yet. But maybe after a shot or two of Tequila, I won't give a damn.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Words Put to Music (Or, Kiss me, for no reason, simply because your heart wants to)

Yesterday, my few leisure minutes of reading time were interrupted by the flow of a melody traveling down the stairs and into my cozy family room. I stopped, mid-page (yes, I did) and listened to the song dance in my ears. It was the most soothing music I’d heard in a while – the a cappella voices of my daughter and her best friend.

I didn’t recognize the melody, but it didn’t matter. The sweet richness of nine-year-old girls singing together as they did God knows what in my daughter’s bedroom (I could have sworn they were on Club Penguin) was enough to remind me that written words are precious but words put to melody are heavenly, especially when the right voices bring them to life.

And that got my mind wandering to some of my favorite song lyrics. Long after my reading time, my husband came home from work and sent me on my evening walk while he fed the kids dinner. With iPod in pocket, I walked my neighborhood, listening to my favorite Spanish music, and appreciating the incredible talent of a good songwriter. We writers put so much heart into our craft, and I believe talented lyricists deserve the same respect.

I realize many of you may not be familiar with Latin vocalists, but in case you’re a fan of Google Translator, I recommend you check out Alejandro Sanz’s Cuando Nadie Me Ve, where he sings:
When nobody sees me
I can be or not be
When nobody sees me
I spin the world in reverse
When nobody sees me
My skin doesn't limit me
(Trust me, it sounds lyrically delicious in Spanish.)

And Camila’s Besame, where they sing:
Kiss me as if the world will end
Kiss me, without reason, simply because your heart wants to

On the English language scene, some of my favorites include Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat (yeah, I realize I’m dating myself) and Billy Joel’s Summer Highland Falls (did it again!). But remember, I’m in it for the lyrics here.

Anyway, I hope I’ve brought a little la-la to your day, just as my daughter and her friend brought song to mine. What are some of your favorite lyrics?

Monday, June 14, 2010

On Vuvuzelas (Or, Is this word one of Eukzyman’s creations?)

[Note: For those unfamiliar with Eukzyman, please click here.]

An invisible angry swarm of bees is overtaking the World Cup games, and the South Africans are doing absolutely nothing about it. I realize it’s hard to track down anything that can’t be seen, but you’d think with an event being broadcast internationally there’d be some real incentive to come up with a quick fix anti-invisibility spray. And Lord knows we can hear the darn bees.

And now I’m told they’re not bees after all but rather vuvuzelas, which is an even stranger word to type than it is to say. What is this noxious, noisy thing that the South African fans consider tradition at all their soccer games? The vuvuzela – a bugle that has to be blown so hard it gives fans bruised lips – can reach 131 decibels, which is almost as loud as a gunshot. The word comes from Zulu and is said to mean – wait for it…making a loud noise.

So to those who mock my sensitivity and call it white noise, I flick my thumb against my teeth at you.

On Saturday, we had some friends over, and as they sat on the sofa with my husband watching the U.S.-England game, you can bet I was elsewhere in the house occupying myself. And that is another challenge. You see, last week my air conditioner drain pan overflowed because, apparently, we hadn’t been flushing out the line properly. (Actually, we hadn’t been flushing out the line at all.) So $500 later, a service call to completely clear the mold-laden line and clean the coils and blower has my system running again. Except that now the thing is so powerful, what with all that gunk not weighing it down anymore, that it runs much more loudly making a high-pitched whirring noise that my son (who has perfect pitch) confirms is a solid "C" note.

Between vuvuzelas and my a/c, I had a pertual headache.

So when my friend Eloisa asked me why I wasn't watching the game with them, I told her I wasn't interested in soccer, which is no lie.

Eloisa: "Aw, come on."
Me: "I can't tolerate that buzzing noise."
Eloisa: "What buzzing noise?"
Me: (With incredulous stare) "You can't hear the vuvuzelas?"
Eloisa: "The what?"
Me: "The vuvu- Oh, forget it!"
Husband: "Is Wendy saying something?"
Me: "You all need your hearing checked."
Husband: "Howard didn't get checked. He's the goalie. You don't know anything about soccer, Wendy."

I rest my case.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On the Dark Side (Or, Help me be brave)

I've returned to my WIP, and it scares me. I don't write horror, or mystery, or thriller, or sci-fi, or paranormal fiction. Still, I'm scared. Of the dark.

In one of my older stories, I experimented with writing sex since I'd been such a prude on paper until that point. It was fun, titillating even. But now it's time to try out the dark side, sans the mask-covered, heavy breathing paternal villain. Oh, wait. I just realized that my "villain" is, in fact, a heavy breather and a father. Uh-oh.

The victim is a girl who, from age 7 until 10, receives the sexual attention of her father, who tucks her in at night with a bedtime story and a "massage", claiming it will help her calm down and relax before sleep. When Daughter starts to develop, Father ceases to come to her bed at night, which sends her into the arms of a local drug dealer who gives her "treats" in exchange for sex. All this at 10 years old.

Let me back up here and explain that neither of these two characters is a major player in my novel, but both are necessary to tell my bigger tale. So I only have to deal with their story in one, long, painful chapter. It's a side of life that is relevant to my plot, which I believe balances itself out with other fascinating characters like the clairvoyant who can see her own death and the chain smoking Swiss-Russian who can recite quotes from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.

My concern comes with the possibility of upsetting readers. Now, now, don't jump down my throat about being such a wimp. What I mean is that since my novel is not a story of incest or sexual abuse, will this one chapter jar my readers, who will have already become accustomed to my beach-book style of writing?

Recently, after having read both of my published novels, a reader compared my style to that of Danielle Steel. Though I wouldn't exactly say I model myself after her, I thought about Steel's commercial success and said to myself, Not so bad. With that in mind, I'm wondering how dark I can get. My prostitute-drug addict, pre-adolescent character isn't about to throw herself in front of a moving train, but on another level, I feel her story is much darker than any Tolstoy tragedy.

Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina

I believe in this story and its potential for mass appeal. So in the end, I suppose I have to be brave and write what must be written. If when that day comes for you all to read this WIP turned published novel, I hope you won't be disappointed or consider tying me to the railroad tracks. If, however, you'd like to see my story turned into a made-for-television movie, I won't be too snobby to graciously accept the creation of a Facebook fan page to promote it.

To all my writer blogfriends out there, I encourage you, too, to have the courage to tell your story without fear of judgment. So much harder to do than to say, trust you me, but hopefully worth it. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

On Girls’ Night Out (Or, Too old for the walk of shame)

You know what the second Sex and the City movie is good for? Bringing girlfriends together for a night of debauchery. Apart from that, not much. As one of the true devotees to the Sex and the City series, I can say that this film was crap. Carrie spends the whole of the movie searching for that “sparkle” she and Big used to share. The only sparkly moment, however, was a jewel of a scene between Charlotte and Miranda when they suck down drinks and confess that motherhood is not enough and that losing a good nanny is a more frightening notion than your husband cheating on you with said nanny. Miranda’s repeated clipped command Take a sip! had me laughing out loud and wishing I could down a martini with her and Charlotte, all the while crying the I-hear-you-sister chant (even though I am one of those mothers that Charlotte and Miranda pitied for having no help).

And please don’t get me started on the fashion. (Okay, you read the word fashion so now I have to bitch.) As one of Carrie’s contemporaries, I’ve always loved her style, and even though I know of no women who walk Manhattan dressed like Carrie did in the series, I accepted it because, well, it was Carrie. But in this movie, pleeeeease! When Carrie headed out to the spice bazaar – a sea of men in robes and women in burkas – she pranced around in a purple and white, full-length taffeta skirt and a T-shirt that says I adore Dior. I lost it.

Did the writer/director think that viewers would be too blind to find Carrie in the crowd – the only woman with an exposed face and a flowing wave of honey-colored tresses? Or were they intentionally slapping me in the face with the symbolism of Carrie as the free and independent woman? Whatever. I’m sure this film did wonders for Western and Middle Eastern diplomacy.

But that’s not really what I came to talk about today. (It’s just that sometimes a girl’s got to get these things off her chest, ya know?) What I really want to discuss is what happened after the movie.

[Disclaimer: If you're reading this post, Mom, it's all tongue-and-cheek. Although I love hearing from you, feedback is really not necessary on this one ;-)]

Inspired by the camaraderie of female friendship (if not the fashion), I headed out to enjoy the night life with my girls, Eloisa and Melanie. I hadn’t been to a club in a loooong time, proven by my schoolgirl glee at being offered free cover ($20) and free drinks for entering a club. Just because I have breasts. Apparently, this is commonplace in these parts where the clubs invite women in for free because the bars make their killing on stupid men trying to hook up. Those guys will hock their most-prized body part without thinking twice if it will get them a drink and the chance to get laid.

Good thing I was out to enjoy girl time with Elo and Mel, who is the only single one in our group. We drank and danced and took goofy pictures with all three cameras. (Ooh, could you please take a picture of my friends and me as we stick our chests out and smile in our wide-eyed drunken stupor? Aw, thanks. Now this camera. Now this camera. Too kind.) Then we drank and danced some more. And some more. And some more.

Me, Elo, Mel

Don't ask how many drinks I've had, but notice I've put my glasses back on to help myself see.

Four hours later, I knew there was no way in hell I was driving home. Mel lives very close to the club, so I slept on her sofa. For a whopping three hours before she woke up to get ready for Saturday morning boot camp. Crazy bitch. Not even 6:00 in the morning and I found myself still dressed to kill but with hair disheveled and make-up faded from sweat, second-hand smoke, and exhaustion. I did the walk of shame back to my car. Except that I wasn’t leaving a guy’s apartment. So what did I have to be ashamed of? Probably just the memories of a time long passed. And as my feet ached in my gold-strapped sandals, I muttered, “I’m too old for this.”

I headed home along the emptiest highway I’ve ever seen – the smoothest ride I’ve had on that road. Although it was heavenly watching the sun come up as I drove traffic-free, I prayed Hollywood would wait at least another two years before releasing another Sex and the City movie. As I said before, I’m too old for this and, I’m afraid, so is Carrie Bradshaw.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

On Humble Pleas (Or, A Letter to Mother Nature)

Dear Mother Nature,

It is the beginning of June, which in my neck of the woods signals the official start of Hurricane Season. I know you are a busy lady what with the damage we humans are doing to your planet and the havoc you feel you must wreak to put us in our place. But I write you today to tell you how much I love and respect you.

I’m not trying to butter you up here (but if that will help, I’ll butter away). I’m simply trying to let you know that for so many of us, you are the epitome of beauty and the most deserving entity of reverence. My two children, in fact, love you so much that the elder can’t stand the notion of littering and wants me to do everything in my power to prevent stepping on any of your creatures, no matter how pesky or potentially painful they can be. And the younger tries, usually in vain, to plant all she can to appreciate the splendor of your flowers, especially those that attract caterpillars. She also loves lizards, frogs, snakes, turtles, and almost every member of the rodent family. (I’ll admit she’s not at all a fan of the arachnid family, but can you really blame her?)

I tell you all this because I am afraid. You are a source of great power, and I have seen what your storms can do. I know this has been a rough year for many of my brethren who have suffered from your earthquakes, in particular. But as hurricane season begins, I am quickly reminded of the eerie storms that have ravaged the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines and their surroundings.

Photo by

I was born and raised in South Florida, yet I didn’t truly see what you could do until August of 1992, when you sent Hurricane Andrew to Miami. The tidal surge from Biscayne Bay swiftly turned my childhood home into fodder for my nostalgic ramblings. After that, things were relatively quiet until 2004, when you sent four hurricanes to South Florida. Mercifully, you spared my part of town from severe damage.

However, in 2005, you seemed notably angrier than usual and sent another four storms to South Florida. Katrina hit Miami but did most of her damage to New Orleans. You finished South Florida’s storm season with Hurricane Wilma, who graciously took the roof from my house during an unseasonably cool time of year. Wilma was no Katrina, but as the eighth storm to pass over in a 15-month period, she knocked the wind out of my spirit. For a very long time. (Though I did come up with some inventive ways to live without electricity or running water. Did you know that child potty seats and kitty litter make for a great waste disposal system, even for grown-ups?)

Now, forecasters are predicting a storm season busier than 2005. And I am terrified. If the roof (finally replaced 16 months after Hurricane Wilma) goes again, I think I will flip my lid. And if the whole house goes, I’m afraid my fortitude will crumble with it.

How can I appeal to you? Do you accept sacrificial offerings? On some days, I’ve got two small humans to proffer. (Okay, you know I’m joking, right? Really? You do know that humor is a human way to deal with anxiety and fear, don’t you? So we’re good?) But seriously. Please hear my plea because as much as I bitch about the summertime climate in South Florida, I know I’m blessed to live here the other six months of the year. You did more than well when you offered your hand in the creation of this land, and my family and I are trying our best to take care of it. In return, I request that you please try your best to take care of us too.

From the bottom of my humble heart, I send my love and honor.

Forever yours,