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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
MAY
04

Prom

So, I chaperoned the prom last night, and I was struck by two things. First of all, this prom was like nothing else I'd ever seen or even imagined. It's not so much that it made me remember once more what a simple, shall we say not financially fortunate district I grew up in. It's more that it made me wonder just how much money was being spent on last night's party, and how much the idea of "prom" has morphed over the years. Because what I witnessed was not prom as I remembered it (i.e. teenagers dancing in a large, decorated assembly space). This was pretty much a carnival, the building full of various lounges and rooms the kids could go to and find various activities, elaborate food spreads, and painstakingly detailed decorations. I was shocked.

Outside in the parking lot, lest the kids get too warm in the buiding or dance hall, a number of other activities were made available, including a big-screen movie showing complete with all the candy and popcorn you could want, and In 'n Out Burger catering. I heard last year they even brought in a Ferris Wheel. I'm sorry, what? It was just so impressive that I found it challenging not to gawk. Or to be jealous of these hours they got to spend circulating in their fancy dresses among such stellar options. I was stuck manning the photo booth and only managed to grab a lunch-size bag of potato chips. I found myself sort of wanting to go to the prom.

Because the other thing that struck me about the evening was that it's been almost 20 years since my own prom. And isn't that kind of a long time? We spend the first half of our lives so unconcerned with our own mortality. I know I've never really concerned myself that much with age, because I know I'm still relatively young. That there are more people on this planet who are older than me than there are people who are younger than me. No matter how old I am, I'm still young. Except there's going to be a point where that's no longer true. And when you realize that your own age doubled is a number many people do not live to, it kind of makes you yearn for, well, the prom. Oh to be young.

APR
21

To Have Been There

Paris was the first place I ever went outside of North America. It had taken me entirely too long to work up the nerve, mostly battling what seemed like they'd be annoying inconveniences like jet lag and foreign languages. Of course, being there turned out to be the very opposite of annoying, and I was left wondering why I'd spent my whole life stalling; wondering what could possibly be better than actually being somewhere you've always wanted to be.

Notre Dame was so striking that I returned three times that first week I spent in Paris, once going to the very top, where this picture was taken, once crying from an inside pew, leaning my head against a cold metal post and mourning a certain part of my life that felt quite squandered. This is not one of those "all is now lost" posts, because the cathedral will be rebuilt, the doors will re-open. This is more to say that if there's somewhere you've always wanted to go, you should go. Because there is only now. And because the things we squander can be recovered, found, but only if we seek them.

MAR
22

Changes

It’s a strange thing, getting your manuscript back from the editor. On one hand, she’s paid to help you make it better. On the other hand, she gone done marked up this precious thing you’ve spent years working on. And you’d really rather she just find it perfect as is. I realize this latter scenario isn’t realistic. And if she’d told me it was perfect, she probably wouldn’t be a very good editor. But this does mean that I’ll be spending the weekend sifting through a sea of red marks, trying to sort out how to now make the book better based on her edits, feedback, and suggestions.

The editing process in general requires a lot of restraint on the part of a writer. You have to actively stop yourself from being too attached to any one part of the book, from getting a bit defensive at the constructive criticism aimed at this thing you’ve put so much heart and soul into. Because this is the way you want it. This is the way you like it. This is the way you wrote it. It hits me fresh with each new book, the manuscript returned to me peppered with suggested changes. It initially feels quite icky. Oh, hell no am I cutting that part. Or turning that complex sentence into three short and simple ones. Psssshhhh. But it helps to remember that readers won’t necessarily interpret things the way I believe I’m putting them across. They won’t necessarily know what I’m referencing by mentioning, say, a John Cusack movie while inside of Serendipity (doesn’t that one seem obvious, though?), or, perhaps, a poem about what happens to a dream deferred (Langston Hughes, anyone?).

The important thing about this manuscript--and all other manuscripts my editor has handed back to me over the near decade I’ve been working with her—is that there were no major problems that needed fixing. From timing to organization to structure, this one was given a pass. Which is really what I’m looking for with a manuscript, hoping I’ve gotten it to a point where any changes that need to be made are of a small, grammatical variety. Sentences shortened, typos removed, awkward wording replaced. Having achieved this once again is what I’ll be striving to focus on as I go through the marked-up pages this weekend. Cake, right? Let’s hope.

MAR
03

Tiny Beautiful Things

I probably mentioned back in the summer of 2017 that I was reading a book called Tiny Beautiful Things when my suitcase was stolen off of a plane. The book had me spellbound, such that I had to finish the final few pages before getting up. I was at the back of the plane and likely had some time before it was my turn anyway. Had I looked up, I would have seen someone taking my suitcase from the overhead bin and walking off with it. But I didn't look up. I couldn't.

And having now seen the play adapted from the book, I confess a similar sensation came over me, in that I couldn't look away. The neatest thing to me about the book is the letters that comprise it are real letters. Written by real people. So instead of just imagine Cheryl Strayed writing to these very real people who have written about very real, very personal, and in some cases very complex issues and questions, we now get to watch as someone portraying Strayed takes painstaking care to address each person who has written to her as the cherished, searching, and desperate souls they truly are. It's pretty powerful stuff, both the depths of character these letter-writers pull from as well as the boundless empathy that such a unique and textured life allows Strayed to pull from as well.

If the play comes to a theater anywhere near you, go see it. If it doesn't (or even if it does), read the book. You will be inspired. You will be bettered. You will need to keep an eye on your suitcase.

FEB
18

The Hand-Off

This picture is really just because my cat feels like she doesn't get mentioned enough on this blog. Also because I was out of town and we are happy to be reunited. But mostly because the activity in this picture (reading) is significant. Having turned in manuscript #4 to my editor, it means I once again have time for books and the reading of them. 

My editor is the only one who reads my books before they're typeset. This is probably stupid. But it's what I'm most comfortable with. I figure people have different opinions, and the more hands I have in the pot (in the form of people who have read the manuscript), the more feedback I'll get--most likely differing feedback--and at the end of the day, it should come down to my own opinions of how I want this book to be. Not anyone else's.

Needless to say, what my editor thinks of the books is incredibly important to me. Not just because she catches typos and things that could probably be worded better, but also because she's my only test reader. The only one I can ask if a certain thing is offensive or if the timeline is confusing. And so I wait in what I would describe equal parts excitement and anxiety for her to send her edits and overall feedback, hoping beyond hope that she thinks it works, and that she enjoys reading it. 

That's what I hope for all readers, of course. That they settle in for a few hours of escape, feeling upon the book's end that they've truly been somewhere, even if that somewhere is simply somewhere other than where they usually are. 

JAN
25

Writers and their Cats

My cat is hoping to be included in the next edition, which she'd prefer be titled, "Cats and their Writers."

That's fair.

To me, having a cat has always paired nicely with being a writer, in that it feels like something that goes together. Not that this makes any sense. If anything, my cat is probably incredibly frustrated about how often she competes with the computer for my lap. And I get incredibly frustrated when I lay out notecards or typeset page drafts and she runs around on top of them. 

But we belong, she and I, the cat and her writer.

DEC
31

The Letter

Every New Year’s Eve I write a letter to myself. I type it, actually, on the vintage typewriter I bought with my tax return while living in New York City. I do this partly because the typewriter was expensive and I’m still trying to get my money’s worth. And partly I suppose because I love the look of typewritten letters. I want ink on a page. The clap of letters being lined up together. The ding of running out of space on your current line. To me it is charming, and somehow more meaningful than simply pushing print.

The letter I write to myself each year is usually one of advice and encouragement. There are things I want myself to focus on, to do better at in the coming year. There are things I want myself to let go of; to give myself a break on. The letter I wrote a year ago today may be one of my favorites so far, despite the majority addressing a certain personal goal I had for 2017 that I did not achieve, the result of which was a much more difficult year. On the eve of 2018, then, I encouraged myself to own it, accept it, and to do better in the new year.

Which I did.

And I have my letter to thank for that, as it sat on my nightstand table and reminded me on a daily basis of what I deserved. I'd had Scotland on the brain when I wrote it, having returned from a vacation there a couple of months before. I had climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat, in a windstorm, and taken in the one of the most beautiful views I will ever see in this world. And so I leave you with my favorite line from last year’s letter, a sentiment that I have perhaps only in 2018 come to truly understand.

“You saw the greens and blues of a world too beautiful to be spent alongside those not battling the wind just to stand next to you.”

Here’s to a new year, a new letter, and a new chance to do/get/be what we need most.

DEC
15

On Ballet and Weight Gain

There’s something about being a woman and gaining weight that is entirely unpleasant. I’m a skinny person, so take anything I say here with a grain of salt, but there’s something about gaining weight that simply doesn’t agree with us. Even if it’s needed. Even if it’s inevitable. Even if your boyfriend says you with a few extra pounds doesn’t make a lick of difference. Because even after all of that, what remains is you, unable to fit into your pants. Even after all that, there will be you, having to buy bigger pants.

My current situation has me battling a health situation that involves injections and medication that both cause weight gain. I exercise as much as I did before (more, actually). I eat the same as I did before. Yet every weigh-in is higher than the one before. It’s defeating in a way not many things have been. Weighing more than I ever have is alarming in a way that makes me feel lazy, helpless, and obsessed. Because I have not responded well. I started getting on the scale every day. I drastically reduced my calories. It worked (in that I stopped gaining), but it made me miserable to have sucked all the fun out of my life. Because a few pounds should not even be on my radar. Right? Because they make pants in all sizes. And because I deserve ice cream.

I stopped the daily weigh-ins and resumed eating a normal amount of calories. I gained the weight back, but I feel happier for just letting my body do what it’s going to do; for focusing on all the positive attitudes I have toward my body. It’ll probably seem silly, but the thing that’s helped me the most is a weekly ballet barre class. I’m a terrible dancer, but when I’m there, when I’m watching the instructor gracefully move her arms and turn her body, I feel like what I’m doing is just as graceful. I know it’s not, but I feel like it is. I feel nothing short of beautiful in that class, and looking at myself in the mirrors, I see a body that’s slender and capable and strong. And it will always be those things. Even if it’s a little curvier.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, how much I wish that we would be kinder to ourselves and our bodies and focus on how amazing and capable they are despite any deficiencies we may have (like actual medical issues or shortcomings) or simply perceive (like non-actual ridiculousness that we somehow think is terrible or limiting or unfortunate). Someday we or the people we love won’t be here. Someday we’ll have actual crises that are worth worrying about. Gaining a few pounds, for any reason, isn’t one of them. So go get yourself some bigger pants. You’ve got some holiday parties to get to.

DEC
02

Manuscript #4: Done

Every weekend I put "write" on my to-do list, which is why this weekend is significant. It's the first time in a couple of years that "write" has been replaced with "edit." Because my fourth manuscript is officially done. There's a lot of work still to do, but I cannot emphasize what a big deal it is to get the writing all down. To finish the last few paragraphs and know that you've come to the natural stopping place. That it all feels done. 

Of course, for me, when I say the manuscript is done, this doesn't mean that it's ready to hand over. I have months of editing to do, not to mention organization and chronology, since I'm the odd memoir writer who does not write in anything resembling chronological order. I just pick a piece or scene or topic and write it up, then pick another one the next time I get a chance to write. So right now it's not in the order I want it to be for you readers. 

Like I said, there's more work to do, but my goal was to have the first draft, to have all the book's innards, written by the end of the year. It feels like a Christmas present to myself that I was able to follow through. Bring on the editing. And also that beach walk.

NOV
18

Faulkner and Funerals

I was genuinely moved at a funeral this week when the deceased’s widow brought up William Faulkner. I would have been moved anyway, her husband having died much too young and in the sudden sort of way that left no time for goodbyes, but the literary reference caught me off guard.

This woman is strong and together and in many moments of her remarks seemed so composed and matter of fact that you’d have had no idea she’d just lost her husband. But when she, in the most raw sort of way that only the grieving can, finally broke down over how hard it is, how sad she was to put his body in the ground and never get to look at it or touch it again, I wept. I wept for her and her children, for all of us. I wept because even the promise of heaven does not soften the blow of being separated from a loved one for the next several decades. How do you learn to do life without the person you do life with? Where is the comfort in that if the comfort doesn’t come until you yourself have left the earth? It’s a question I’ve never been able to answer.

It’s like that story, the widow said. A Rose For Emily. She reminded us of the basic plot, which is that Emily keeps the deceased body of the man she loves, in her bed, and even gets in the bed with the body, a fact that’s discovered upon her death. It’s such a classic, frequently-read story. As early as high school I was scrunching my nose in disgust over the whole icky idea. It disturbed me, frankly. It had disturbed the widow, too, except here she was now admitting she finally understood why someone would do it. And the thought of closing the casket and leaving him in the earth was so much worse than taking him home with her, as she wished she could.

Honestly, it’s the first time I’ve felt any amount of affection for the story. The first time it struck me as something tragic and almost beautiful. It’s the first time I’ve left a funeral craving Faulkner.

OCT
26

Manuscript Babies

 

This picture was taken without my knowledge while at Disneyland last week with a certain little person in my life. This little person is quite different than his older brother, whom I took to Disneyland last year, and as a person with no little people of my own, the differences between the personalities of little people is not something I’m able to observe very often. That’s one reason why last week was such a surprise to me. I was expecting the week to go much differently. Neither worse nor better, it was just different. Because they are different. We spent much more time observing details than we did careening down mountains. And I have no complaints about that.

When it comes to differences, I can’t even really compare animals because I only have one (best girl I have, that’s what I tell her). So that leaves me—the childless cat-lady author—with nothing but manuscripts to compare. True that they are my babies, in a way only someone without children would say. True that they exist because of me. That they make me worry and cry and stress and don’t make me any money. That I love them all unconditionally. That they are each my favorite but for very different reasons.

I’ve been making steady progress on my new manuscript, up to 90% finished now. 90%!!! It’s that weird part of the writing process where you’re so close to being done (exciting!) but long finished with your favorite and best parts (demotivating!). See, I don’t write my manuscripts in chronological order. I don’t write from start to finish. I make a list (which constantly changes) of things I know I’ll want to include in the book, and then I pick one and write it up. Then pick another. And another. But I’m no fool. And I pick the things I want to write about most first. If that sentence sounded strange, what I mean is I first pick the things I most want to write about. The Goods. The Juice. The Triumph. The Bitch Who Lived Downstairs.

Which means I’m left now with the dregs, if you will. The stuff I keep passing over each time I select a topic to write. The stuff I haven’t chosen until now. It’s not bad. It’s just not the stuff I couldn’t wait to write down. But the end is near, and that’s pretty incredible. A new sibling to my other manuscripts, one which I’m sure to love equally and with abandon. Even if he takes cross-eyed selfies when I’m not looking.

SEP
30

Pining for Seasons

There's a framed picture on my bedroom wall of a group of people ice skating in Central Park. It's a print actually, a creative artist's depiction of a whimsical and vibrant city. The people are thin, colorful, their limbs like sticks that dangle in front of or behind them as they glide along the ice. They are bundled, wearing scarves and jackets, a cityscape of buildings towering behind them. 

I look at this picture often, as well as the two others in my room by the same artist, one of the Brooklyn Bridge and one of the Empire State building, but today it seemed to transport me back to winter in New York. I never did ice skate in Central Park while I lived there, but New York was the last place I lived where I experienced seasons. Not that there's much to complain about here in San Diego, with its nearly year-round temperatures in the seventies, but that doesn't leave much room for seasonality, so I end up manufacturing experiences to make myself FEEL the changes of the season.

Last weekend I drove to Julian, a darling little mountain town just over an hour away. They're known for their apples, most famously their apple pie (although the bread pudding pictured in this post is the town's best kept secret), and fall is often littered with various apple-themed festivals. And so I attended last weekend's Old Country Fair, filled with a charming collection of booths, food, a pumpkin patch, and hayrides. I even paid for a special ticket that let me press my own apples and drink the fresh cider, something I'd never done before. It was delicious. Despite the 90 degree weather (shouldn't it be cooler in the mountains?), I felt like I was making fall happen. And when you live in a state of permanent summer, these things are important. I doubt there will be any ice skating in my near future, or any pie baking, but I'm sure I'll continue to stare at the print on my bedroom wall, missing that sensation of wind against bundled ears and the need to zip up my jacket all way to the top. Or, you know, wear a jacket at all.

Happy Fall, readers!

 

SEP
09

Our Version of Truth

A fan of Ira Glass and his weekly This American Life broadcasts (LaDonna, anyone??), I haven't been able to shake the story told in last week's How I got into College episode. The one about the Bosnian student who believed a certain teacher's reaction to an essay he wrote was the catalyst for the series of occurances that ultimately led him to success. Listening to the student's version, it's a great story. One that makes clear not only the gratitude he has for her impact upon his life, but also pinpoints the exact moment, the specific thing, that started the chain reaction. In this case, the essay. In the student's mind, if he hadn't written that essay, if his teacher hadn't read it, if she hadn't then told him he needed to get himself to a better school and then created the opportunity for him to do so, then he wouldn't be where he is today. It was the essay, see. The essay was the thing.

Interestingly, when they tracked down the teacher years later, she debunked the student's theory, assuring him the essay had played no part. She'd been watching him for months, she says, observing his talents and capabilities and determining he needed more than their school could offer long before he'd ever written the essay. You could tell from the student's reaction that he was having a hard time accepting this. He kept trying to bring the essay back into the conversation, even suggesting that while not the main driver then, it at least contributed to her determination that he needed a new school. Sounding almost frustrated, as if she'd realized he was twisting the story to his own end, she wouldn't even give him that. The essay was not the thing.

The teacher further claims that she can't take as much credit as the student gives her, in that she knew he was bound for greatness and fully believes he would have achieved it even without her help in getting admitted to a new high school. And it's a rather tragic thing, to watch (or in this case listen to) a person's core belief dissolve right in front of them. He'd counted on this. He told the story at every dinner party. It was the reason he had succeeded. 

The interviewer asked the student toward the end of the episode if he was going to start telling it differently now that he knew the truth, but he said he wouldn't. To him, it was reality. It was how he had observed a very significant series of life events. And this may seem sneaky, but the thing is, I kind of get it. Not having the full background, he built this memory around how he perceived what happened, (he wrote an essay, his teacher suggested a new school) and knowing nothing else, it became his doctrine. His truth. It's a reminder, not just of how fragile and shakable our memories can be, but also of how powerfully the most important ones can be rooted into our very being. To the point where we need them preserved, intact, and whole just to survive.

 

AUG
25

Anais Nin and a Writing Update

 

After several thousand more words, I'm officially 70% done with my new manuscript. Since my last update at 60%, I've been writing a lot about my months of gemology studies in New York City. Despite some city stresses, it was such a happy time of life. One of my favorite things I've ever done, and writing about it--everything from the little gemology lab I set up in my apartment to the worksheets on which I used to scribble out my always-imperfect assignments--has made me remember how much I loved it. It's brought me back to those places, to that time, to those hundreds of gemstones that I studied and identified. 

It reminds me of that saying. By that I mean the one on the notebook I was given as a gift. "We write to taste life twice." It's Anais Nin, and it's so accurate. When writing about something true, something that actually happened to us, or should have happened to us, or that we watched happen to someone else, we go back there. We feel a glimmer of how we felt at the time. We craft the words that best describe these glimmers for those who weren't there, for those who wouldn't have felt what we felt in those moments. I highly doubt it would have given any of you a thrill to study a new box of gemstones each day, or to get the fancy pair of diamond tweezers you wanted for Christmas, or to pass a test you've been working toward for years that requires a perfect score. But if I, in my thousands of words, can help you see these glimmers and how they look and feel to me, then we're all richer for having seen a slice of life the way someone else experienced it. So, back to the manuscript.

AUG
05

Breakfast at Tiffany's

As soon as I heard that luxury mammoth Tiffany & Co had opened a cafe in their flagship Fifth Avenue store, I was desperate to go. This is, after all, the girl who showed up early the morning that Tiffany's finally opened a store in Cleveland to have a pastry and hot chocolate in the parking lot. Breakfast at Tiffany's. Of course, actually getting a reservation at Blue Box Cafe is easier said than done. I can, in fact, think of almost nothing I've experienced in recent years that has caused me more frustration. Except my company switching from Aetna to United Healthcare. To hopefully save you some of this frustration, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Reservations must be made online, through Resy. Don't think you can do it by phone. Don't think you can show up and hope someone cancels. No one cancels. And you'll be waiting all day.

Install the Resy app. I tried just setting up an account online, like on my computer, and then when clicking a time to book, Tiffany's website would take me to Resy where I could then login to confirm the reservation. The problem is that it only takes a few seconds each morning for that day's reservations to be taken. Gone. Booked. So unless you put the actual Resy app on your phone, saving you the steps of logging in and entering your credit card number, you'll never be fast enough. So get the Resy app. It's the only way.

Reservations for a particular day open for booking 30 days before that day. So, roughly, reservations for August 1 are able to be made on July 1. You've probably noticed that this makes it near impossible to try to plan a trp around it, as you typically need more than 30 days to do that. Also keep in mind the reservations open at 9AM eastern (6AM pacific if you're as lucky as I am), and like I said, they'll be gone in seconds, so get yourself ready to work it first thing in the morning, 30 days before the day you want.

Sign up for notifications. Since you inevitably won't get a reservation, sign up to be notified if any slots open up on the day you're looking for. It will amaze you how many times this happens. That you get sent a notification that the table you want is now available. It will also amaze you that no matter how quickly you click "reserve" to snag the slot, it will already be taken by the time the screen loads. This happened at least 20 times in my quest to get a reservation, and only after all those missed opportunities did I finally snag the cancelled spot before anyone else. So keep trying. Keep those notifications on. 

Don't worry about time of day. All sections of the menu, even breakfast, are available all day. I had a 1PM reservation, but I wanted Breakfast at Tiffany's. And I got it.

Prepare to be underwhelmed by the food and overwhelmed by the charm. Let's face it. Food is not a strength of a luxury jewelry chain. I'd be concerned if it were. So you could sum up your meal by saying it's a lot of hassle and money for a mediocre croissant. But it won't really matter. Because that's not why you're there. You're there for the experience. For the swoony feeling, the charm of the robin's egg dishes (that you can, incidentally, buy just outside the cafe in the housewares department), for the cucumber sandwich tray. Besides, when it comes to charm, does it get any better than this: Waitress: "Do you want to see the dessert menu?" Tali: "I mean, I just had a waffle, but yes I do."

JUL
08

Because I Also Write Books

It's easy to forget that, especially because there are so many other things to talk about on this blog. Like LeBron. And gemstones. And the fact that I've fallen in love which is totally cutting into my writing time. (Worth it, by the way.) But I do write books. 

I'm currently 60% done with my next manuscript. This will be my fourth book, and 60% feels significant. It feels like we're getting somewhere. And I probably say this with every book (someone should really look into this), but I'm pretty sure this one is my favorite. While the other three each follow a certain theme throughout my entire life thus far, this book is about a single, brief period of my life. It's about a thing I always wanted to do. It's about me doing it, loving/hating it, and ultimately leaving it behind. It's just focused differently...in a way my first three books are not. And I'm also exploring the idea of experimenting with chronology on this one, so you have that to dread look forward to when the time comes.

All good stuff. I like writing so much. I'm grateful it's one of the many aspects of my life. Even if it almost never gets top billing. On this blog or anywhere else. Some things we do simply because we must. Because we are called. Because they are there. Because if we don't, who will ever know that these things happened to us? That we had these feelings? That we dreamed dreams and took risks and failed a lot?

Which is all to say, I'm looking forward to the next 40%.  

JUN
28

LeBron James: He Gone?

It was never a question of whether or not I would go. And, despite the epic hard-coreness that is my fandom, it was never really a question of whether or not the Cavs would win the championship. I would go, and they would lose. Not that the outcome of the game, or the series, really mattered to me, in that I would go regardless. I would cheer regardless. I would believe regardless. I would wear Cavs gear throughout April, May, and June regardless. And I would very nearly end up in the poor house due to the way the airlines jack up prices in cities hosting major events regardless. Yet, I digress.

The fact is, as a Cavaliers fan, watching Lebron make it to the finals this year was nothing short of magic. It was also torturous, but magic trumps torture. A seven-game first round they almost didn’t make it past, a second-round sweep that made a commanding statement, another seven-game series in the third round that took more than it should have, and then the ugly championship sweep full of so many injustices I can’t even think about it. But through it all there was Lebron, and the near-constant reminder that he is still the greatest—not just in The Land, but in the world. Still. After 15 seasons.

I lived in Cleveland once. I lived there when he played as a Cavalier the first time around. I lived there when he left. I lived there when he came back. And now I’m the lone Californian who flies to Cleveland every year to see him play in the finals. And I love him the way the entire city of Cleveland loves him. I want him to stay the way the entire city of Cleveland wants him to stay. I doubt there’s a path to another championship there, and so I doubt he’ll stay, but I wish it didn’t have to be about that. I wish it was simply about playing basketball where you want to play basketball, raising your family in the place where you grew up, being content in the knowledge that you will always be known as one of the greatest to ever play the game regardless of if there are 3 or 4 or 5 rings. He deserves to still be winning championships, he’s that good, but isn’t the legend stronger when you stay in the city that’s yours?

JUN
07

Gambling is Easy

I'd never really done it, see, other than a company party one year where they brought in a bunch of dealers and gave us all fake money. I won a lot of fake money that night, all on the roulette wheel, and it seemed like there were a few key bets that really had pretty good odds. Still, it's easy to take risk when it's not real money.

I go to Vegas once a year now for work, and the thought finally occurred to me this time that maybe I should try my hand at a real table. Put some chips down. And so I bet $20 on red, won, and walked away with $40. In truth, I was so afraid of losing it (and letting yourself actually lose money that you once had seems so stupid), that I quite literally ran to the cashier's booth. I wondered if they'd ever cashed someone out for $40 worth of chips. But seriously, 50% odds at doubling your money? It all seemed so easy.

I got curious again on my last night in town, wondering if I could replicate my luck. Placing $15 on black and $15 between 16 and 17, the first number that came up was black 17. My payout: $300. I couldn't believe it. I'd just yielded 10x my bet. On one spin. People at the table were congratulating me. I couldn't stop laughing from the glee of it all. At the cashier's booth again, still laughing, I watched her count out my $300 still in disbelief that it had so simply become mine.

So clearly this whole gambling thing is totally easy. And I know the trick is quitting while you're ahead, but as long as you have the self control to do the trick, can someone explain to me how gambling isn't a completely legitimate way to make a little money on the side?

Probably a good thing I only go once a year.

MAY
28

Stars and the Moon

My dear hometown jeweler, who recently passed way, has a son who spent several years of his life in the world of theater. A talented performer, during one summer that he spent home in Oregon, he staged a local production of the then-new show, Songs for a New World. I was working at his dad's store at the time, dreaming of how life would unfold and incredibly impressed by anyone who, like my jeweler's son, had left town to pursue a dream, a talent, and then come home to nurture our community with the spoils.

I attended the show multiple times, one song in particular resonating with me in a way I couldn't describe. It was nothing I'd experienced for myself, but the story spoke so strongly of the importance of following your heart, of choosing love, of not letting worldly things or wants become more important than anything else. The song, "Stars and the Moon," was originally performed by Audra McDonald, a fact I learned after tracking down the original recording. I didn't know who Audra was, but the song stayed with me for years, this thing I never wanted to forget as I made my way in the world.

For those keeping track at home, Audra McDonald has won a record six Tony Awards and is one of the biggest names on Broadway. She may not have been when she recorded "Stars and the Moon," which is why when I saw her for the first time in concert this week, I was certain she wouldn't sing it. It's a small thing really, a song. Heard a long time ago. A lifetime ago. I knew so little then about love and life and loss. And yet when Audra introduced her next number as one written by Jason Robert Brown (wait, what?), from the production Songs for a New World (could this happen?), titled "Stars and the Moon" (No. Way.), I could only bring my hand to my mouth in an attempt to contain my glee. Again, it's a small thing. A song. But I wanted to hear her sing it all these years later, to see the sincerity I'd always detected in those lyrics.

I attended the concert with my darling boyfriend, who, let's just say, is not the Broadway enthusiast that I am. He wasn't familiar with Audra or, barring a very few exceptions, the songs she performed, but understanding after the first few numbers that these were songs from shows, he leaned over and asked, as sincerely and innocently as only the Broadway-clueless can, "Will she sing Wizard of Oz? I like Wizard of Oz." I stifled a smile and replied, "No, that's not really Broadway, honey." And then she closed the concert with Somewhere Over the Rainbow, at which point I could no longer stifle the smile. Some nights are just perfect. Some songs are, too.

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MAY
20

A Thousand Splendid Suns

There's always a bit of shame for a bookish, English-degree-holding writer in books she probably should have read but hasn't. For me, most of this gets wrapped up in the classics...books I should have read in high school or college but didn't. Not out of neglect, just out of necessity really. If a teacher assigned The Scarlet Letter over The Grapes of Wrath, then the former is what got read. If a professor preferred As I Lay Dying to Lord of the Flies, then that's what I stayed up all night reading.

Bottom line: there are some definite holes in my literary repertoire. 

Books in more recent history don't make me feel as much guilt over having never read, and while I read The Kite Runner when it was new and on everyone's radar, it didn't bowl me over such that I felt a burning need to read A Thousand Splendid Suns when it followed a few years later. I don't even remember hearing a thing about it. And why was this? Why did no one tell me I had to read it? It's no one's responsibility, yet somehow I feel slighted. Unprepared. Ill-fitted for the world.

I know a play based on a book is totally cheating. I know I have still never read this book. And I know now that it was a mistake not to. Because the Old Globe's theatrical adaption of this book was riveting. It bowled me over--with feeling, with intensity, with injustice, and ultimately with the depiction of the bonds that are possible between women. To know there are such books in the world that remain unread fills me with a panic I can't quite describe. If you know of any, tell me. Tell the world. And then go find more.