The sin of distraction (a meme and title stolen from greygirlbeast)

I realize that a number of my readers don’t care for memes, but I’ve forgotten (again) how to do the LJ cut properly. I can’t seem to resist explaining my choices. I think that stems from going to school all these years. I was well suited to being a college professor and what used to be called a “public intellectual.” Too bad that “career” disappeared in the mid-1980s, when Stupid became the national religion.

Oh, and I was recently being shamed on a mailing list for “making sweeping generalizations.” My comments were supposed to be funny exaggerations, but this ain’t da fust time dose broads have jumped on me for saying things as mild as, “All really creative artists/writers are nonconformists.” (How is that not a Universal Truth?)

I tell you what, if I say “that’s black,” they fire back immediately with, “No, it isn’t. It’s a shade of MIDNIGHT CHARCOAL that only LOOKS black in a certain light. You are talking about a Texas-based sunlight. You are always OVERgeneralizing,” etc. It’s fairly passive-aggressive. I am then required to apologize and grovel and drag my hair through the mud.

I’ve figured out why I tend to make a generalization (even when it’s an exaggeration). Again, all that schooling. In school, when you are given an assignment, typically you are expected to take what you have read and draw some general conclusions, backing them up with specific citations. In science labs, you are supposed to draw a conclusion. Generally, you are asked to reason from the specific to the general. That’s why it comes naturally to me. I am just trying to make sense out of the world when I do it, not put down some particular group or method. But it seems that whatever you say, it steps on someone’s widdle toesies. That’s the world today, I guess.

Hope you’re wearing your steel-toed boots.

Meme stolen originally from oneirophrenia and by me from greygirlbeast. (Both of them writers.)

**10 bands/singers I’m really into lately**

Y’all’re gonna be disappointed, because there’s no one new on this list.

1. Bobby Darin (BD rules) (*always has*) (BD junkie since 1971)–in rotation are “Swingin’ the Standards,” “Sail Away,” and “Aces Back to Back”
2. Neil Young (Neil Young junkie since 1978)–“Live Rust” and “After the Gold Rush”
3. Pete Seeger (Seeger fan since 1963–Mama used to play all his records)–many Vanguard compilations
4. The Beatles (Early album with “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist and Shout” and also the one with “Paperback Writer,” I think Abbey Road(!), or maybe the hit singles compilation, in rotation)
5. The Monkees (“Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones” in heavy rotation)
6. Nancy Sinatra (you’d be surprised at some of her old albums–vinyl lives forever)
7. Doc Watson (the guy who plays bluegrass banjo and strings)
Isn’t that ten yet?!?!

**9 things that make you smile**

My dog, and Pomeranians in general–and cats, too, all kinds
Stained glass
Thinking of happy times
Vintage cars with those great big fins
“You’ve got e-mail!” beep
Summer showers with rainbows in the sky–or running through a sprinkler
Seeing a little kid tugging on his parents’ hands to show them something
Pianos
Road trips and Sunday drives

**8 things you wear daily**

Sunscreen
Underwear
Glasses
Lip gloss/lip smackers stick–but it wears off pretty fast
Black leggings or semi-stretch pants
Wedding/engagement bands
Hair scrunchies (ponytail holders)
A silly grin

**7 things that annoy you**

I’ll have to number these to keep from going on and on. (As if I’m not doing just that anyway)

1. Rules that don’t make sense and were put in place after some upstart did something that annoyed the Ruling Class (such as, “No xxx in ss.”

2. People who walk in your front door, see the baby grand, and ask, “Does anybody play that thing?” Especially if they then (upon learning that the culprit is YOURS TRULY) ask you to play something, and then start plonking the keys at either the highest or lowest octave. Or play random keys trying to screw you up. Then they defend it by saying something lame about how they’re not impressed if you can play that classical rot, or you weren’t playing anything they recognized (even if you were playing something they hum daily in the carpool).

Or they go throw dimes on the keys that you’re playing, and you fear it will screw up the mechanism of the Borders concert grand . . . the parents have not properly socialized the little monster who did that to me when I was playing in a Borders cafe.

Or they ask what the fastest thing you can play is. My answer is always, “I wish I could play this number faster. The faster you play, the less time there is to make mistakes.” (That was a joke, son.)

3. The insurance co-payment going up for prescriptions and doctor’s office visits just about every year

4. TVLand dropping (first I typoed it as “drooping,” ha) the good shows for all those Westerns and lame 80s/90s shows. Where is my “Bewitched”? Why don’t they re-run “Dobie Gillis” and “Patty Duke” like they’re supposed to? They ruined “Nick at Nite” long ago, and now I can hardly bear any of the TVLand shows. Channel 11 Superstation betrayed D/FW when it became the CBS affiliate, so there’s no hope there. I can’t even find re-runs of “Caroline in the City,” a guilty pleasure.

5. Cheerleaders. Gah. In fact, any sports fan who calls it “My Team” when he or she has absolutely nothing to do with the athletic prowess or scoring ability of the team, and does not own a financial stake in it. Unless you are ON the TEAM, it is not “Your Team.”

6. Pop-up ads and spam e-mail. Why do they continue doing it? Does anybody really buy stuff from all those things? It must be working, or they wouldn’t bother doing it . . . unless their mission in life is to ANNOY US!!!!

7. Excessive use of exclamation points!!!!

**6 things you’re looking foward to**

Having my book published by a New York house and actually sent around to bookstores
The ensuing book tour, even if I finance most of it *grin*
Getting a call from an agent who’s a real agent to tell me a real editor wants me to sign a multi-book contract
Starting piano again with a jazz player, if I ever find someone who takes grown-ups as students
Getting a tattoo (okay, I’m lying about that one–I am deadly afraid of needles, think it’s not for me, etc. Just thought it would sound cool)
The next issue of sappy, silly “Sheet Music Magazine”

*5 things you’re scared of*

I can’t begin to list my many and varied phobias and neuroses.

**4 things that are on your desk**

(Used to, I could always say “a cat” and be correct)
Um . . . two printouts of novels (manuscripts) that I need to read back through again after letting them rest for a couple of weeks
this weird answering machine that understands distinctive ring but forgets messages when the power fails (digital)
a stack of bills
a red Swingline stapler

**3 movies you could watch over and over again** (and have!)

Real Genius
To Kill a Mockingbird
A guilty pleasure–the original Parent Trap

**2 of your favorite songs at the moment**

(Can we count piano compositions?)
The “Alice in Wonderland” jazz waltz that I’m learning. It’s as played by Bill Evans, sort of, but I think the original was in the Disney movie.
“The Other Half of Me” as sung by BD on “Swingin’ the Standards”

**1 person you could spend the rest of your life with**

Well, since I’m married, I suppose I’ve already made a traditional choice on that one. But seriously, you’re going to have to spend the rest of your life with yourself, so why not choose YOU? So I’ll say, “Me!:>”

Trivial-meaningless-useless fact of the day: crossword (puzzle) expertise is supposedly one of the qualities the CIA looks for in its potential recruits.

I always INTENDED to be an actress or a spy. Comes from all those hours of watching I Spy, The Man from UNCLE, and the Girl from UNCLE (Stefanie Powers, IIRC.) My dad used to get really frustrated when we sneaked around the house “spying” on him.

Remind me someday to tell you what he did when my friend and I put the record player on “repeat” and played a particular 45 over and over during a sleepover evening. . . .

Is this an original joke?

I’m collecting/inventing clever (ha) jokes for use as a characterization device in my next book–“I don’t sleep with anyone (or whatever) until I approve their fave joke” running schtick. Haven’t finalized exactly what the schtick will be other than it’s going to be them regularly trading jokes.

I need to know whether this one came to me from some forgotten source or whether I made it up. I was watching some dumb thing on TV the other night and I thought of this situation/punchline and started choking with giggles to the point where the dog got concerned and went nutzoid, and I went and told it to my mother and she just fell off the chair and ordered me out of the room. But it’s too GOOD to just be something that popped out of my head out of nowhere, so if you know where it comes from, let me know, eh? It still may be OK to use (but not if it’s out of somebody’s screenplay or out of a comic’s act!)

Okay, Beavis (of B&B fame) is being presented to the Queen. Unfortunately, just as he steps up to take his bow, he breaks wind. The palace guards immediately grab him and carry him out. Before they heave him out on the street, he gasps out, “What’d I do?”

“You passed gas before Her Majesty.”

“How was I to know it was her turn?!”

A confusing reading

Well, just as I suspected, the Universe exacted its nyah-nyah revenge for my inaction in the case of the Poor Beggar who needed to go to a shelter for the night. Apparently, when I told Mama about this after we got home and she and I sent up a prayer that someone else would help this dude, that wasn’t enough. *We* were supposed to be his answer to prayer, it appears, and we fell down on the job.

So after I did my previous LJ post (it’ll appear either before or after this one), I went back to my email program and found a rejection from an agent who had been sitting on about six of my novels for quite some time. Over a year, actually. She says that she kept them because she was reluctant to pass on them, but ultimately (OF COURSE) she’s doing exactly that. Reason given? (This is what always “gets” me.) She says she needs to be over-the-top in love with my work, and she just isn’t.

Well, okay. I am not OTTIL with every book I read. Can you really expect to be that crazy about ANYTHING you choose to pick up and submit? There are loads of books selling well, too, books that don’t appeal at all to me, but somebody is making a boatload of $$$ on them. I suppose my question is, can you really expect to go crazy over all your clients’ work?

I guess. This does not, however, surprise me. I have never had a mentor. There has never been anyone who picked me out as their favorite *anything*. Any teacher or workshop cohort I’ve ever had admits (sometimes grudgingly) that my work is pro-level, yet they must not be connecting with it in any way such that they can’t stop reading. Is this a manifestation of my main “character flaw” of being “the girl everyone knows is smart and they can’t help but laugh at her jokes, but in the end they really prefer not to be around her and not to have her in their group”? The interesting part is that these people ALWAYS admit I did the best job, or deserved the “A,” or whatever, but it’s never followed by, “And so we want to use your story” or “So come on and go to lunch with us!” It’s something that I lack somehow. I don’t know what it is. *I* don’t feel the lack, whatever it may be.

Anyway, I did a Tarot reading to ask whether I ever *will* run into any agent or editor who is “in love” with my work sufficiently so as to say they’ll take a chance on it. The results are, as always, somewhat confusing. Every reading I’ve done for MONTHS now (if the question should concern “what should I do with my life instead of this” or “should I give up or change direction” and so forth) has said that “success is just around the corner.” But often it does have some obstacle such as The Tower (scary card) popping up.

Here’s the reading, behind an LJ cut.

It was a simple six-card spread. Freaky that all the cards are Major Arcana.

How you feel about yourself now –The Chariot

You feel everything is a constant battle at the moment, but persevere and you will triumph in the end. Expect some good news that will help you to keep going until you achieve your goals. This is a time of movement and change and of conflicts ending in victory. You may well consider a journey that relates to work or go for that new car you’ve been looking at.

What you most want at this moment–The Lovers

The cards suggest that what you most want at this time is to know what choice to make – carry on as you are or take a risk? The risk offers excitement and change.

Your fears–The Sun

You are afraid that things seem too good to be true, so much pleasure and joy; well, enjoy it–sometimes we can be pleasantly surprised. If you have been unwell, this is a time of rejuvenation and good health. Perhaps you are afraid that things won’t actually get better; have faith, you are about to enter a happy and pleasurable time. The Sun heralds an ending to difficulties and a time to celebrate with friends and loved ones, a time of pleasure and good news around children or the conception or birth of a longed-for baby.

What is going for you–The High Priestess

All lines are open in your telephone exchange with your intuition, and there is no better guide than your intuition. Listen, listen carefully and the secret you want revealed will be shared with you.

What is going against you–The Tower

However hard you try to control events, they just won’t go your way. Unexpected challenges, upheaval and disappointment will bring expectations to an end. Subconsciously you may have wanted a solution, you just didn’t expect it to happen this way. Use this period of change as an opportunity for a new beginning. If you have been planning to move home you will be experiencing setbacks.

(Me: So, here’s the building falling down again. Is that just talking about the rejection from this particular agent? I had pretty much decided I would never hear back from her, ever. I wasn’t really expecting it to upset me when she said bye-bye. I still think it’s very, very odd that she’d cite, in addition to the no-love factor, as a problem that I write in too many genres and am too prolific. I know Wal-Mart never complains when their employees work a few hours off the clock for free. Or is this about some larger issue? Hey, this is business as usual, so why bring it up? *wry grin*)

Outcome–The Empress

This is a truly creative and fertile time. Expect the best if you are considering having a child, creating a new job or business opportunity or starting a creative project. The Empress symbolizes abundance, joy and happiness, and reassurance – a firm foundation for future progress.

(She and the High Priestess come up all the time in my readings lately. I am still waiting for the Annunciation Angel to announce that I’m pregnant–not bloody likely, as I’m infertile and went through an early menopause several years ago to boot. The abundance can kick in at any time. Should I take the Christmas tree down, just in case?!)

Anyway, I shouldn’t even let this affect me, let alone let it send me over the edge, as I had pretty much given up on ever hearing back from this agent anyhow. I would like to meet an agent who likes the same kinds of books I like. But when I do contact those who have as clients people who have written books I think are like mine, I get this kind of answer. Maybe I am wrong when I think those books are like mine.

Here’s a good question. Let’s say that I win “The Contest” or I get an offer from an editor. *THEN* would this agent take me on, even if she still wouldn’t be in love with my work? Or would she suddenly see it in a different light? It would seem that all of a sudden, after an offer, any agent would like to take on a sure thing and get a commission, but of course the people who previously rejected the selfsame work are being hypocrites if they *do* that after they just SAID that your work doesn’t connect with them. Or maybe even if I *did* get someone to take me for a one-shot for that contract only, I would still not be able to get any agent who’d really like my work. Maybe there won’t be anyone during my lifetime or after who’ll like my work, except me.

I mean . . . I like it.

That really SHOULD be enough. For some reason, it isn’t.

John Lennon Redux.

Okay . . . just now, I was glued to the boobtube (Sabrina re-run) and this video came on. And the voice of John Lennon came out.

Accompanied by guitar and drums.

I blinked. Double-blinked.

The video was by Jet (I think I have that right.) It starts with the little woodland critters from “Bambi” and “Cinderella” watching this band perform in a clearing.

The lead singer is the one who sounds *and looks* like a young John Lennon. Like Lennon on the cover of early Beatles albums. *boggle*

And this is a ballad. Like the ones from “Sgt. Pepper” and thereabouts. Except it uses the chord progression of “Everything I Own” by Bread. Hmm.

The video goes through the expected media-manipulation schtick where a dark force represented by a devil-face enters the woods and all the woodland critters go wicked or get swooped down upon by owls, etc. Then near the end of the song, there are intensely bright flashes intended to put the brain into “panic” mode, a technique used by many not-too-original film types.*

The drummer is dressed like Ringo Starr did for a while, with a police or Nazi hat and leather gloves. That part is very Sgt. Pepper.

Okay. So . . . this cannot be “just a coincidence.” This kid was picked out of the crowd or rose to the MTV arena partly *because* he was Lennonesque. They’re trying to evoke the Beatles-meme or the Beatle archetype in those who have that “racial memory” or cultural meme in their heritage. I still haven’t really figured out what would possess someone to do such a cheeeesy video, but then if it’s popular and it works on the demographic it’s aimed at, it’s what they meant to do, I suppose.

When the ballad began, and the chords and rhythm made me think of Beatles ballads, I thought, “Hey, I might seek out this record.” By the end of the song, though, I’d pretty much been turned off. That’s ’cause I’m ancient and wizened and cynical and jaded. (I’d prefer to be opaled and diamonded, but that’s another issue.)

I really can’t tolerate those strobe-light superbright flashes, either. Remember how I said I had a visual infirmity . . . well, that is what triggers problems and exaggerates it for a couple of HOURS afterward. So that’s probably the final camelstraw. (You know, the one that made the camel rear up on its hind legs and say, “NO more damn straw-carrying! I’m going through the eye of that needle. And if it’s as small as it looks, I’m going to throw a hissy!”**)

Well, anyway. That was an interesting experience. Wonder whether he’ll shoot to the top? He wasn’t a bad singer. (Of course, Lennon didn’t have “the Paul McCartney voice,” and so it isn’t the prettiest, but that’s not in fashion.) Maybe we’ll have to wait and see, eh?

Hmm.

Footnotes: (wiggling toes)
* Yes, those flashes activate a part of the brain that’s rather primitive. It says, “WHAT THE F*** WAS THAT?” and snaps to hyper-attention. That’s ’cause used to (as Uncle Eursell would phrase it), a flash like that came only out of a gun barrel, and before that, lightning. Bad, dangerous things that meant trouble. So there’s a part of the brain that reptiles and above have which is programmed to hup-to when it sees those flashes.

YES, those marketing b*st*rds are well aware of this. Yes, they are doing it deliberately. No, I don’t think that’s cricket. But chirp-chirp, who cares what *I* think?

**Q. Frustrated novice at sewing: Why is the eye of the needle so small?
A. Irritating Mensa wag (SC): To piss off the camel.

If you don’t get it, you haven’t been to Sunday school. That’s OK. It’s just a Biblical scholar joke. Seminary joke. Never mind.

The Black Dog

The black dog is on the way.

He sits on the horizon, waiting.

I don’t know what caused this bout of melancholy. It seemed to hit me full force after we “snubbed” the “beggar” (to put it into my online friend’s preferred terms), but it has been here and has been wanting to build.

It’s not just that I am worrying about whether my manuscript will make it to the finals and get sent along to St. Martin’s editor Ruth Cavin. Not just that there are so many things that need to be done to organize and renovate this house, and it’s overwhelming–partly because I don’t have the perfect health one needs to pick up and haul boxes of books, move furniture, unhook and re-hook electronics such as stereos and TiVos and get them back on the shelves, etc. I don’t even think it’s all because Mother has been sick for such a long time with these minor but disabling ailments and still isn’t up to speed. (She started getting two abscessed teeth before Christmas, went on antibiotics for a couple of weeks as a “string-along” measure, and only last Monday got the dental appointment . . . she’s now finally starting to get over the entrenched infection and the surgery, but now that she can’t eat because she can’t chew, she stays weak. She’s allergic to milk and soy (!) and thus can’t have the Ensure shakes, but she has diabetes like me, meaning she HAS to eat at regular intervals. All the diseases work against each other! Those were her last good “meeting” teeth–and she will have to go back for more work on the 28th. She won’t go anywhere “and be seen” until her teeth are finished, either, so it’s tougher; she is an extrovert and needs lots of people to talk to.)

No, it’s just everything. (sigh) I know . . . I don’t have anything seriously wrong with me that isn’t fixed, everyone’s pretty healthy, we’re making ends meet, we have a roof overhead, our dog is healthy and active, my piano holds a tune, I keep getting story ideas and never have any trouble writing. So what’s the big deal?

“We need to do something fun,” Mama said the other day. Her idea of fun isn’t the same as mine, though. She’d like to redecorate/refurbish the house, starting with throwing away all my books and most of my stuff in general. She pulled all the kitchen stuff out of the cabinets before Thanksgiving, saying we needed to reorganize, but then she started coming down with “the flu” (probably that infection) and would poop out after ten minutes of standing up. I just put stuff back wherever it would fit. That doesn’t bug me, although I wouldn’t object to changing things . . . I don’t think we could effectively do it without spending some money on those organizer thingies, though. And it takes up the day, and then you’re all out of daylight and there’s still another day’s worth of housework to do. I suppose I’m just not the fifties housefrau type. It does drive her insane to live in MY house; I realize that. There’s not anything we can do about it. I’m an INTP (iNtP) and she’s an ENFJ or one of those judging/organizational types who lives in the moment and doesn’t wander around with her head in the clouds, not really “seeing” the surroundings and therefore not minding that much if they’re not bandbox. I am also aware that we need some serious repairs done and need to pack some of the stuff away (stuff she brought with her and/or things that are seasonal) before worrying too much about making slipcovers. She’d be happy just to see slipcovers, I think. She really ought to have her own Home and Garden TV show! She’d be great. She could be the designer and tell people what’s wrong with their pathetic little houses. She could ban the colors orange and pink in perpetuity! And she’d do it, too!

Would my life totally turn around if I got “that call” from editor Ruth Cavin, saying I had won the contest? It certainly *seems* so from this end. For one thing, I am sure I could get an agent with that offer, and that agent would then probably be willing to look at all my other books (and it wouldn’t be a three-year wait while it “sat on the agency’s slush pile.”) The book tour would be a trip. There are SO many people in our family’s “network” across the country–the people and family we have in various areas who could help publicize the book and/or make a way for me to speak at a bookstore or library–who would be thrilled to see that I had “finally done something with myself.” And then I’d feel that there could be a point to life . . . the next book might have a waiting audience, instead of just getting printed out and thrown on the stack of books that I try to vend to people who simply aren’t interested in seeing more stuff, who are overwhelmed with the clients they already have. If they want someone who can crank out a series (partly because she already has one written and another in the works), a book or more a year, I’m their gal/man/personage.

Of course, many times the fairies have been sent to teach us that we ought to watch out what we wish for, because it might come true.

I suppose I will start some kind of little house project tomorrow. She can help, if she feels like it. And that’ll help my endorphins. Chocolate would be nice, but you know diabetes. I already used up all my carbs on potatoes and tortillas.

The black dog sits, watching.

Some have been visited by angels unaware

You don’t often get stopped by someone asking for money or handouts in this area, a fancy-pants Dallas suburb where everyone seems pretty affluent. But tonight, as we came out of Chili’s restaurant at the corner of Coit and Campbell, a fairly average-looking thirtyish guy stopped us on the way to our car. “I’m sorry,” he began. “I don’t mean to scare anybody, but I only have three dollars and I need bus fare to get to the downtown homeless shelter tonight.”

It’s already 32 degrees outside. It was 22 earlier in the day, before it warmed up. My birdbath has been a chunk of ice all day, on the north side of the house.

We’d just eaten a $22 dinner, but (as usual) I had paid with the Visa check card (a debit-type card attached to our checking account) because I never have any cash. It happened that I had cashed a $17 check the other day, though, so some cash was probably left in my coin purse.

I was already getting into the car when the guy started talking to my husband. Hubby looked at him a moment, then said, “Sorry, we don’t have any cash,” and jumped into the car. “Sorry. Good luck to you,” I called out the window as the guy began to trot away across the parking lot.

We really should’ve given him something. I mean . . . he DOES need to be in a shelter tonight. It’s going to go below freezing. We couldn’t have offered him a ride, of course, but surely I have a $5 bill somewhere. But we were already driving away as I have this thought.

I said nothing. Hubby immediately piped up (as he started up the sport utility vehicle and turned on the heater–here we are, fat, comfy, and definitely dumb) with, “I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t take a chance. Not after what happened to David’s mother-in-law.”

That was a completely different situation. A woman had shown up at that elderly lady’s door and asked for $5 for food, and then when the elderly woman came back to the door with the $5, the intruder tried to push her way in, saying she wanted to work in the house to earn the money. Fortunately, the neighbors had just had this woman try the same stuff with them, and they’d called the Ft. Worth police. So about then a cop cruiser pulled up in front of the house. The woman bolted, and that made them chase her down. Turned out she was panhandling in the neighborhood because she lived in a nearby apartment. Two weeks later, this SAME woman’s photo was in the paper. She and two confederates killed an elderly couple in a nearby area when they forced their way into that house. Okay, scary. However, completely different from our situation.

His rationalization didn’t work for me. “Perhaps that was an angel sent to test us,” I murmured.

“He’ll be fine,” said hubby, as usual not pausing to parse my sentence before he answered. “He’ll be able to walk to the DART train station. Besides, I don’t think he’s really homeless. He looked too good.”

Must all homeless people look like the ones in fiction who live in New York gutters? Still a rationalization.

I thought about calling the police to get them to take him to a shelter, but what they’d do is arrest him for panhandling or loitering, if they could find him. Because this isn’t Mayberry. So that wouldn’t help. I feel really bad about this.
I don’t think this guy would’ve “done anything” to us. But “you have to be safe,” they tell me. Where does the line get drawn?

Sigh.