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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
NOV
17

On Christmas Lists

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My sister is a great gift-giver. The best I know. She almost never asks me for ideas, she just spends the year quietly collecting things that make her think of me, things she thinks I'll like, and then I open her Christmas gifts having absolutely no idea what to expect. These kinds of gifts are my favorite to open, and they are usually spot on. Which proves what is possible when you truly know someone.

Cases in point. She bought and restored an old writing desk I adore and have schlepped across the country twice and still use. She tracked down the album of songs that a well-known hospital clown sang at Oakland Children's when I was a patient there in the late 1980s. Songs that I listened to for years afterward on a tape I eventually lost track of. Silly I guess, the songs, but being reunited with them so many years later was one of the biggest and most thoughtful surprises I've ever received. One I didn't ask for but loved.

If I ever had a child and found myself doing the family thing, I'd be tempted to implement a no-list policy. Meaning no one would be allowed to ask for specific things; rather we'd all just shop for each other based on what we knew the others would like. It means more, right? It's better, right? Of course, it's also harder. Not to mention, not everyone can do what my sister does. I think she has a knack. A gifting skill set. Whereas I always seem to say--about my own siblings and parents--"What on this green earth can I *possibly* get them?" Which seems an odd thing, being unsure what to buy for, say, the woman out of whose womb you tumbled forth. Um, maybe a pedicure? Some chocolates? I just DON'T KNOW!

Just yesterday I sent off my Christmas list to my two brothers and my parents, and it reminded me that 1) lists make it SO EASY to shop for people, and 2) on the receiving end, you know you'll be getting things from that list; things you definitely know you like/want/need/have been coveting. It's sort of like the proposal conundrum I talk about in Jeweled. How a girl probably appreciates the Leap of Faith more than the Slam Dunk, but then again, she does want to like the ring she gets. Insert something about tradeoffs here, and I don't have the answer. But I am curious, dear reader, do you prefer giving and working off of lists, or are you won over by the idea of the heartfelt crapshoot? Please answer. These things keep me up at night.

 

 

My sister is a great gift-giver. She almost never asks me for ideas, she just spends the year quietly

collecting things that make her think of me, things she thinks I’ll like, and then I open her Christmas gifts

having absolutely no idea what to expect. These kinds of gifts are my favorite to open, and they are

usually spot on. In terms of how much I like them. Which proves what is possible when you truly know

someone.

Cases in point. She bought and restored an old writing desk I adore and have schlepped across the

country twice and still use. She tracked down the album of songs that a well-known hospital clown sang

at Oakland Children’s when I was a patient there in the late 1980s. Songs that I listened to for years

afterward on a tape I eventually lost track of. Silly I guess, the songs, but being reunited with them so

many years later was one of the biggest and most thoughtful surprises I’ve ever received. One I didn’t

ask for but loved.

 

If I ever had a child and found myself doing the family thing, I’d be tempted to implement a no-list

policy. Meaning no one would be allowed to ask for specific things; rather we’d all just shop for each

other based on what we knew the others would like. It means more, right? It’s better, right? Of course,

it’s also harder. Not to mention, not everyone can do what my sister does. I think she has a knack. A

gifting skill set. Whereas I always seem to say—about my own siblings and parents—what on this green

earth can I possibly get them? Which seems an odd thing, being unsure what to buy for the woman out

of whose womb you tumbled forth. Maybe a pedicure? Some chocolates?

Just yesterday I sent off my Christmas list to my two brothers and my parents, and it reminded me that

1) lists make it SO EASY to shop for people, and 2) on the receiving end, you know you’ll be getting

things from that list; things you definitely know you’ll like/need/want/have been coveting. It’s sort of

like the proposal conundrum I talk about in Jeweled. How a girl probably appreciates the Leap of Faith

more than the Slam Dunk, but then again, she does want to like what she gets. Insert something about

tradeoffs here, and I don’t have the answer. But I am curious, dear reader, do you prefer giving and

working off of lists, or are you won over by the idea of a heartfelt crapshoot? Please answer. These

things keep me up at night.
NOV
07

The Typewriter

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I'd always wanted a vintage typewriter. I probably mentioned with glee when I finally acquired one last spring while living in New York City...the land where they have everything, including not only a plethora of vintage typewriters, but also people who can repair them and restore them and teach you how to use them and order you a new ribbon for your circa 1960s model. (The Typewriter Doctor)

Of course, the Typewriter Doctor will also charge you a fortune, but it's worth it. Right? To be able to plunk out darling, nostalgic notes for people. Or even for yourself. To write letters. To craft the most charming grocery and weekend to-do lists you ever thought possible. (You try typing 'Pay Target Bill' on a vintage typewriter and see if it doesn't make you feel downright excited to pay it.) But excited as I was on that sunny day when I schlepped the not exactly lightweight machine from 23rd Street to the subway and then from the 77th and Lex stop all the way over to 1st Avenue, I haven't used it. I blame the fact that I was in the thick of gemology studies. Then I was preparing to move across the country. Then I was actually moving across the country. Then I was getting settled on the other side of the country, starting a new job and figuring out how to properly apply sunscreen.

I feel I owe my typewriter a commitment to use him more, I'm just not sure it's a commitment I can confidently make. Not that you should interpret any of this to mean that Tali has suddenly become all down on vintage typewriters, because I haven't. I think every author should have one. For what though, I'm really not sure.

NOV
01

Lessons from a Pixie Cut

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This week marks one year since getting a pixie cut. I can't say enough about how much I've enjoyed it. That doesn't mean I always think it looks good. That doesn't mean all men like it. (The exception being really old men, who, without fail, smile, wink, and wave at you because you remind them of Julie Andrews or Audrey Hepburn.) But I always feel pretty bad-ass. A tweenager came up to me a few weeks ago and said, "I like your hair. You look like Tris from Divergent." So clearly I've accomplished everything I could have ever hoped to in life.

Seriously though, here's some advice to anyone who's considering a pixie.

The season doesn't matter. I cut mine in November. In New York City. Winter was upon us, and my stylist urged me to consider waiting until spring. But by then I may have chickened out. Besides, was the frigid NYC winter we were about to experience going to be measurably warmer with longer hair? Well, maybe. Ok, probably. But still. You would be cold regardless, so just chop it when you have the courage to chop it.

You won't look like a boy. I walked straight from the stylist to Sephora on E. 86th Street and had them give me a makeover. I bought everything they used on me, and in the beginning I was sure that unless I dolled myself up, complete with a headband or sparkly hair accessory, I would look like a boy. This is a stupid fear. Because hair doesn't have a monopoly on femininity. Take a look at notable pixies in the celebrity world. Emma Watson, Kaley Cuoco, Michelle Williams, and, most recently, Kate Mara, whose pixie is downright stunning and looks so much better than the longer hair she had previously. Are these women any less feminine? Or sexy? I would argue they are more so. So stop fretting. You still look like a girl.

Style with purpose. Every day my hair looks different. Depending on the product and the way I tousle it, I get something different. True, there are days I don't love the way it turns out. There are days I miss having hair. But as I think about growing it out, something inside me feels ickily ordinary. When I think back to a lifetime spent just pulling my hair back, piling it on top of my head, doing nothing with it, it makes me love the pixie even more. Think about it. It's a style. A style you have on purpose. A sexy and bold style you have on purpose that exudes confidence and makes others wish they had the huevos (and the cheekbones) to pull it off.

So do it. Get a pixie cut. Make November the month. Winter be damned. (Plus you can dress like Peter Pan for Halloween. Just saying.)

 

OCT
25

The Boys in the Boat

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If you haven't read this, you must find yourself a copy pronto. It is everything a good book should be. And it really happened.

That's all.

PS - Why didn't I ever become a rower? My arms would be so toned.

OCT
17

ArtNight Pasadena

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For those waiting on the results of my candy experiment, having a big bowl of chocolate at my table did draw in a record number of visitors. Indeed many other authors at last weekend's Pasadena ArtNight commented to me on how popular my candy was. Not that it really sold me any more books. People just wanted some candy. Jerks.

It was a great event though, the ArtNight. And hats off to Pasadena for arranging such a complete and hassle-free experience. I found myself wishing I could ride the free shuttles around town to the different buildings housing various artists and musicians for the evening. What a great way for a city to see and experience a wide mix of genres and talents. And such a great reminder, for those of us at the library, of just how many people out there write books. Of course, it's also a reminder of how there really is something out there for everyone...and about a billion things not for everyone, which is why indie book selling is and always will be so challenging. There's a relatively (read: extremely) small number of people out there who are interested in reading your books. As opposed to all the other books they could be reading/buying. But I suppose that's what makes the world go round. And keeps the traffic at a book fair moving. As for that traffic, however, there might have been more of it had the library's $1 books room not been right next to the author area. Made our prices a tough sell...even with candy.

 

OCT
14

Happy Fall! (Er...summer?)

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Things I miss about fall: changing leaves, cool temperatures, sweaters, light jackets, the smell of campfire, rainy days, and baking sweet things. I also miss all the Ohio State crap in everybody's yard. But don't tell anyone.

It's truly odd to be in this land of eternal sunshine. Because it doesn't feel like fall. It doesn't feel any different than it felt all summer. It's actually even hotter. And how odd to be sweating it out at the beach in mid-October. I keep finding myself checking the 10-day forecast in New York City, where I lived last fall, and Cleveland, where I lived the six falls before that. Temperatures in the sixties, fifties even on some days. It sounds so glorious!! I know I'll be singing a different tune come winter...something tells me I won't mind sitting at the beach in winter...but there's something about fall that a girl just wants to experience.

I can't do much about the sunny temps here in Cali, the lack of need for my jackets and sweaters, but baking? I can do something about that. And so last night I used my oven for the first time in the 4 months I've lived here and baked something sweet. It was an 85-degree day and it made my house so hot that I may never bake anything again, but for a moment, it was fall. Real fall.

OCT
06

#UCCstrong

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I woke up last Thursday morning to the sight of a woman at the top of my driveway putting a bag of dog poop in my trash can. And so I stewed on this for hours, feeling pissed and a little violated. What is wrong with people?

It took hearing the Roseburg news to shake me from my ridiculousness, because in the grand scheme of things, who cares about dog poop? In the grand scheme of things, who cares about anything other than the health and safety of the good people of this planet? What’s worse—or at least what hit me hardest about this most recent mass shooting—is that it happened right near my own hometown. Mere miles from both the home where I grew up and the beloved jewelry store I talk about in Jeweled. The UCC campus itself is where I attended countless dance recitals and community musicals, competed in high school choir competitions, and took yearly school exams.

And so I’ve been sad for my community, even though I no longer live there. I’ve been angered at the vulnerable situation these no-gun zones put people in (think the school in Sandy Hook, the movie theater in Aurora, UCC, etc). I’ve been inspired by the faith and hope of those who have been most affected by this tragedy. And I’ve been completely unconcerned about dog poop in my trash can ever since.

OCT
02

October is for Opal

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So, remember when I was living in New York City and studying gemology? Yeah, me too. One of my favorite phases of life. Ever. I miss the city a lot and the gemstones even more. Studying them, identifying them, subjecting my Instagram followers to pictures of them. Of course, the great thing about now working for a gemology institute is that my building is not in want of gemstone displays. They are, quite frankly, everywhere. And not just the laboratory area either (where, for example, just this week I was able to meet one of the gemologists who graded the Hope Diamond), but lining pretty much every hallway, too.

Most of the pieces I've seen now, through my various explorations of the building, but every now and then I come across one that has somehow snuck past me. Like this opal stunner that literally stopped me cold. I mean, just freaking look at it! And I'm not even an opal girl. Trust me, as a gemologist, I have my favorites--diamond because it's the BEST, star corundum for the asterism, rhodochrosite because it's so unique, turquoise and aquamarine for their beautiful blues--but opals have never moved me. Until this necklace, that is. Maybe it just takes 148 carats to get me there, but either way, this was a happy way to officially ring in the month that boasts opal as its birthstone. Happy October, everyone!

SEP
23

Choose my Table

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I'm getting ready for an author fair next week. I love author fairs. Book events of any kind, really. It's nice to be reminded you're an author, especially when just a lowly one like me. Because sometimes I forget. Sometimes I feel discouraged and wonder why I do it. But an author event can bring me back to myself...my writerly self.

The question at any author fair is, of course, how to get people to buy your books. Selling books is hard. People can't just look at a book like they can jewelry or artwork and know they will like it. And people aren't as free with their money as they used to be. An author fair attendee peruses everything and oftentimes buys only one book. One book. So how do you make sure yours is the book they buy? Just make sure yours is the most interesting book. Right? Possibly out of your control, but even if it weren't, before a person can even think your book is interesting, you've got to get them to approach your table. And there are *a lot* of tables at an author fair. Most of the time all lined up in a row or arranged in some other closely-spaced configuration.

I don't know what the magic formula is--something tells me it probably involves a low-cut top, a celebrity guest, and an expensive giveaway--but I may try out a few new things at next week's fair. (Much to my sister's disappointment, I will not, as she suggested, be hiring friends to hang around my table and act very interested, thus creating the illusion of mass intrigue and popularity. But that's really only because I can't afford it. And also because I don't have many friends yet...new in town, remember?) In any case, if you find yourself in Pasadena next weekend, I hope you'll choose my table. There will be candy. Which, come to think of it, is probably almost as good as a low-cut top.

SEP
12

Good/Bad

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It's gotten to the point where I don't watch the news anymore. I can't. I won't. It depresses me, frightens me, maddens me. The downside is that I rarely know what's going on in the world, but sometimes this seems like the better alternative.

September 11 was a terrifying day. It may not have seemed completely real to me from the safety of my college dorm room on the other side of the country--bodies falling, burning, this was the stuff of fiction, of movies. I still find myself trying to block out the overwhelming disturbia that sets in every time I'm reminded of the events of that day; that people purposely brought those towers down. Earlier this summer I attended a small short-film festival, and it took until about halfway through the longest of the films to realize that it--following the stories of a flight attendant on a plane, a businessman in an office, and a firefighter in the city--was about 9/11. The sickening disturbia set in like it always does, such that the film's final scenes--the flight attendant crying and whispering to air traffic control about their low altitude, the firefighter's concerned glance to the sky overhead, and the businessman's look of both shock and solemnity as he looked out the office window to see a plane headed straight for him--have not let me go.

I'm not actually recommending avoiding watching the news. It's a wimpy and irresponsible thing to do. We have to be in the world. Since I've been thinking about The Giver (Game-changing Books), remember that the Elders' stance was that it was better to shield people from the pains and sorrows of the world, even if it meant the people could experience and feel nothing...even the good, wonderful, and lovely. Or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a movie about a process that allows people to erase their memories, particularly of other people. I love watching our protagonist, who's had a bad breakup, fight to reverse the process once he's realized that if it means losing all memory of the person he once loved, it's not worth ridding himself of the heart-wrenchingly painful parts of their relationship.

The fact is, there is good all around us. It might be harder to see, it's certainly not publicized as often or to the same extent, but it is there. And even though each day something in the world can be counted on to bring me down, something else equally reliable is the rate at which something--some kindness, some action, some thing of beauty--inspires me. May those moments carry us through. And may we never forget.

 

SEP
09

Spinster

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I know I've been overwhelming you with books posts lately, but wouldn't you know it that just after posting my top ten books (Top Ten Books that I Love), I've read a new one that just might bump something else out. And at the risk of subjecting you to a book reviewy post (isn't that what Goodreads is for?), I simply have to say that if you are a single girl--or anyone who thinks reading about significant female writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who bucked tradition by staying (or at least preferring to be) single--you simply must read this book.

Let me be clear. I'm not one of those women who loves to hate on marriage or shout about how I don't need a man. It's true, I don't need a man and have most of the time found being single preferable to being in a relationship (the exception being the one time I was in love), but I am still a person who wants to be married. In that if I could choose for this, my life, to go any way, I would choose to someday have the opportunity to be married. So in that regard I don't relate as much to the author and her "awakeners'" single-or-bust mentality.

That said, our society could use a crash course on the single woman, and this book was consequently a fascinating and refreshing read. Because spinster didn't used to have such a negative connotation. Interesting then that it--spinsterhood--has over the course of time transformed into the one thing every girl hopes will never happen to her. And why exactly is that? How is it that we've come to believe that ending up alone is the worst possible thing that can ever happen to you? A question made even more blatantly ridiculous after reading about these remarkable, interesting, and fascinating women who not only achieved success and acclaim without a man by their sides, but also didn't spend decades of their lives drowning in the sea of societal pressure surrounding marriage. (Sister ain't got time for that, and, quite frankly, neither do you.) And that's what our society--or, at the very least, the minds of female singletons--could use less of; this constant drone of marriage and when it will happen and where it will happen and with whom it will happen and if it will happen and how many eggs I'll have left when it happens and what if there are no eggs left at all when it happens and maybe I should freeze some just in case it happens and on and on for the rest of the days of your bag lady, multi-cat owning unfortunateness. If you ask me, that is what sister ain't got time for. So get on with it. Life. Yours.

SEP
01

Game-changing Books

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We've all read them. Books that literally seem to change the game of the way books are usually written. Or what they're written about. The Hunger Games comes to mind, only because I don't know if I've ever been more unable to put a book down. On a plane (where, granted, it's easy not to put a book down), I stayed in my seat with my nose deep into my gifted hardcover copy as the rest of the passengers deplaned. Just. One. More. Chapter. Kids freaking killing kids. It was disturbing. It was sickening. It was mesmerizing.

The one I've been thinking about this week was a book I read in junior high. I've probably mentioned it on here a time or two, but this book completely rocked my world when I read it. I was a teenager and a lot of things rocked my world--Birkenstocks, The X-Files, Devon Sawa--but this book positively made me pay attention because of its difference. Its felt significant to me, even then. And when I finally got around to watching the movie this past weekend, I couldn't help but feel disappointed. Because I remember how I pictured everything, especially that last scene--how epic is that last scene, the snow, the hill, the what-is-really-happening conjectures--and of course I pictured it as nothing like the movie. Now isn't that always the way?

Yet, I digress. If any of you readers have a book that felt like a game-changer to you when you first read it, please share! If what you want to say is longer than a comment's worth, submit it on the website and I may post some of them!

 

AUG
27

A Very Disney Day

 

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I've recently learned that if a Disney employee actually wishes you a "very Disney day" that they are, in essence, flipping you off. But that aside, I did want to mention as a follow up to this post (Disneyland Annual Pass: Yay or Nay?) that I did get the pass. And for my inaugural pass-holder visit, I was lucky enough to have my brother in town to be my partner in Disney crime. We opened the park (7:30 AM), we closed the park (midnight), we owned the park.

This brother is almost a decade younger than I am, so I wasn't around for much (read: any) of his growing up. I actually had two brothers who were still kids when I left home, and it's one of the reasons why I was such a blubbery mess the morning I drove away, college-bound. Because I was going to miss so much. Of them. Of their games and concerts. Of their laughs and mischief. Of their bedroom door that I'd always pass while on the way to mine...a door completely covered in stickers that I'm pretty sure my mom has never been able to remove.

This was probably the most time my brother D and I had ever spent together as adults (so naturally we went to Disneyland), and while sometimes it can be jarring to think of my younger siblings as having long passed me up (in size, in major life milestones), the way I most often think of them is as the two little boys I used to read Harry Potter chapters to. Fitting then that the family picture I keep framed on my nightstand is a circa 1998 Splash Mountain photo. My brothers, ages 7 and 9, wear priceless faces. One of blatant disgust and the other of sheer terror. Someday I hope we'll be able to recreate it, but even if we do, I doubt I'll ever like any family picture more. It's partly because of the priceless terror faces, but it's also because they were kids. I guess we all were, in a way. And it was magical (yes, I said it) to be with one of them again at the place where you sort of always feel like a kid. Looking forward to your next visit, D.

AUG
15

Top Ten Books that I Love

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In honor of National Book Lovers Day, which went largely unnoticed again this past week, I thought I'd put together some thoughts about some of the books I truly love. It goes without saying that as a writer and avid reader, books mean a lot to me. I know how hard they can be to compose, to arrange, to get out there, to publish, to market. That there are still so many people out there who have thought to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and gone through the whole endeavor just to make their words available for people like you and me is something I am grateful for every day. The escape, the adventure, the creativity, the honesty, and the wisdom we absorb through the written words of others, well, it's what I consider one of the great blessings of our time.

*These are in no particular order, except the order in which they came to my mind. Make of that what you will.

1. Peace Like a River. This one gets me every time, and I've read it plenty. Combining the innocence and humor of a young narrator with the unbreakable bond of family, you'll find yourself torn between justice and mercy...although justice never really has a chance when love and family are in the mix, now, does it? You'll be rooting for Davy and the RV-towing family who's trying to track him down.

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Honestly one of the greatest regrets of my life is that it took me until THIS SUMMER to finally read this book. How much time I wasted not being acquainted with the Nolan family. Young Francie and her mother Katie are some of the most memorable characters I've ever known, and something about the degree to which you become immersed in this world of old-school Brooklyn is simply captivating. A true treasure.

3. The Year of Magical Thinking. My favorite of Joan Didion's books, it explores grief in a way that feels both practical and sentimental.

4. The End of Your Life Book Club. I'm such a sucker for memoirs anyway, and this one was both literary (you'll get lots of great ideas for reading material!) and heartbreaking (from the very beginning, you know how it has to end). For anyone who has ever loved their mother.

5. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.. I'd never really thought of the film Breakfast at Tiffany's ushering in a whole new era of female sexuality (and not really sure that I entirely buy it), but as a huge fan of the novella, of the jewelry store, and of Audrey Hepburn, this book has plenty of all three. From the writing to the casting to the filming, this is a fascinating look at a movie that, if not quite sexually redefining, was undoubtedly iconic. An absolute treat.

6. The Secret Life of Cowboys. An honest and messily beautiful account of a writer turned cowboy who takes his chances on ranch life. And Tom Groneberg actually reached out to thank me when I complimented his books in a previous post. We've corresponded a bit, and you've got to love authors who aren't above reaching out to their fans.

7. Tis. Out of Frank McCourt's trilogy of memoirs, Angela's Ashes gets the most press. But I find Tis to be the best of the bunch. His childhood years behind him, Tis tells of McCourt's first years in America.

8. The Alchemist. A beautiful story packed to the brim with symbolism and parallels that will have you thinking lost past the last page. A book ultimately about following your dreams and finding out what exactly it is that the universe has in store for you, it's what ultimately inspired me to go get my gemologist diploma.

9. Quiet. Fascinating (and, oh, so true) nonfiction read about the power of introverts in a society that lopsidedly praises (and goes to great lengths to matriculate) extroverts. Every introvert will rejoice...and for every boss, manager, dean, and CEO, it should be required reading.

10. Frankenstein. This one made such an impression on me when I first read it because it's not at all the book you think it's going to be. We hear so much about the story of Frankenstein, but, believe me, you should read the real thing. Not unlike characters such as Elphaba and the Phantom, you'll be left musing over these tragic characters who, initially so full of goodness, were ultimately changed and cracked by the way others treated them.

AUG
12

Unfinished Business

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I just finished reading a book whose author passed away prior to its completion. Since her wishes had been to have it published--even partially--the book, a much-anticipated sequel, went to press as it had been at the time of her death--only halfway finished. It was tough to read, partly because the original book had been so phenomenal. Any sequel--even a completed one--would have struggled to hold a candle to such a fine work. And then there was the matter of the sequel's incompleteness, its lack of editing, etc. Fulfilling the author's wishes is the important thing, so nothing else really matters, but the whole thing did make me a little bit sad. Sad that the author wasn't able to make it the book she intended for it to be. As a sentimental, somewhat morose, and occasionally morbid writer myself, naturally this has caused me think about what I would wish upon my own partially-completed manuscript.

In short, what I would wish is this: That no one see it. Ever. (Except the sumbitch who broke my heart, who should be forced to read my account of said heartbreak over and over again.)

All kidding aside, I do think about the whole death/manuscript relationship fairly frequently. The thought horrifies me. Not the death part. The unfinished manuscript part. The great thing about getting your memoirs published, see, is that you have the chance to pick the stories you want and then polish them until they sparkle. No one has to know that the way you originally wrote it in your journal was something along the lines of, "He said this and I said that and then we did this stuff and afterward went to this place where that neat thing happened." As of now, my manuscript unfinished and unedited, there are several things that my post-death computer discoverer will have to wade through. Like entire sections I already know are going to be cut. They aren't very strong and the manuscript's too long anyway. So should the worst happen, my apologies in advance. Both to whoever it is that discovers my partial manuscript, and to my faithful readers, who unfortunately won't be given a partially completed book to wean themselves off of me. I'm afraid you'll have to go cold turkey.

Although you could always hunt down my ex for the heartbreak chapter.

 

AUG
02

Imagination

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I was talking the other day with my six-year-old nephew about a humorous card I had mailed to his house--one that featured a cat poop joke--and told him that Clementine (my cat) had liked it, too. There was a pause, followed by a thoughtful question. "When you say Clementine liked it, you don't actually mean that you know if she liked it, right?" I assured him that, no, I didn't actually know what she thought, but that I sometimes like to imagine the kinds of things that a cat might think or like. "I don't imagine very much," replied my nephew. "I'm just not that kind of person," he continued, and further explained that this is why he prefers reading books with facts in them.

Now, you'll never convince me that any six-year-old kid out there has no imagination. And I've seen this particular kid use imagination all the time--in the games he invents or the silly words he makes up. But I get what he's saying, I respect it, and, more than that, I respect that even at such a young age he recognizes this in himself. He just prefers reality. And thinking about things as they really are.

I'm a non-fiction girl myself, in that most novels leave me feeling mildly frustrated, wholly unbettered, and filled with a desperate sensation of just-let-me-read-about-something-that-really-happened. I had always planned on writing fiction, but that's not the way my mind works. Fiction is clearly the ticket in the publishing world. And if I could think up a futuristic trilogy involving an oddly-named, kick-ass heroine, I'd probably be a lot more profitable as an author than I am now. Or at least have the chance to be. I suppose in many ways I feel like my nephew in this regard, in that I don't have much of an imagination when it comes to writing. I'm just not that kind of person. Luckily there are those who are, and luckily there is still space for everyman memoirists like me. Granted, there's a lot less space for everyman memoirists, but I'll take those odds. And who knows. Maybe one day you'll see that I've broken through with a series involving a vampire going off to 7 years of vampire school (Batty Cotter?). But doubtful. I really, really am just not that kind of person.

JUL
28

Fireworks: Musings on a Small Town

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This is just a firework, and a mediocre one at that, but it's a firework that was set off in my hometown, above the baseball fields in the town park. Other than Christmas, I go home so seldom that I think this past weekend may have been the first time in over a dozen years that I was around for the annual summer festival.

It's comforting, going home. You know where everything is, for a few days you feel as young as you did while living there, and that so much seems exactly the same is a great constant amidst the fluctuations fast enveloping all other aspects of your life. But even as I walked through the booths at the small festival thinking that everything--the layout, the goods, the pre-fireworks exploding anvil--was identical to when I was a teenager and taking some comfort in that, it was also a teensy bit alarming to realize how much about this trip was, in fact, different. The golf course has been renamed. To something totally ridiculous, by the way. The Dairy Queen is about to be replaced by another franchise; some dispute over fry sauce. And when I attended my old church congregation, I saw a sea of mostly strangers. It felt weird to introduce myself. "I grew up here," I said, as if I were reaching for some kind of justification for being there at all.

It's just the way of things, I suppose. You never forget or feel less endeared to a place, but the connections you have there grow thin when you move away and never come back. Writing books about the people you grew up with doesn't really help your cause either, but I've made my choices, I suppose. I guess I just wish I chose home more often. It's hard to find good fry sauce.

JUL
19

I Want to be Famous

 

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I've come to terms with the fact that it will never be mine, fame and copious amounts of money, and really, that's OK with me. I rather enjoy paying my bills each month, saving where I can, fighting with the bank--let's call them Schmells Schmargo--to get them to overturn $90 worth of fees I should have never been hit with (in the end they refunded only $50.50, and it still felt like a small victory). On one hand, that I care so much about bank fees makes me feel a little bit desperate, but on the other hand, we're talking about 90 freaking dollars, not to mention the principle of the thing (I'm talking to you, Schmells Schmargo), and despite all the indignities that come with being a regular person (think coupons, sales, packing lunch, buying off-brand, fighting with Schmells Schmargo), I find the struggle quite invigorating. It's living. But every now and then, I just want to be famous. I want to breathe easy about retirement, to have living in the most expensive city in the country (NYC) followed by the second (hello, California) not even phase me, to buy my parents a beautiful house, to be so cute and popular that my picture shows up in the weekly People magazine. Heck, I'd even settle for occasionally just being recognized while out in public.

Just prior to leaving New York, I spent the day with a celebrity. He's not an A-lister, but he's very well known, and I found it thrilling just to be in the presence of someone who was stopped everywhere we went (at the botanical gardens, at dinner, at Target) for autographs and pictures. I felt famous simply by association. Even as I could tell he was years weary of these being-stopped-in-the-street moments, all I could think was how much better my life would be if such things happened to me. If the manager sent out free dessert simply because I was dining in his restaurant. If the people at the table next to me asked for a photo. If I had a bajillion Twitter followers. Or even 250.

My celebrity friend is a singer, and a very good one, too, but since he hasn't been focusing on recording for some years now, he hasn't exactly been "working." On our day about town, I was just finishing up my gemology sabbatical and getting ready to start my new job, and I was a little sad (translation: completely depressed) about having to say goodbye to the delightful world of Not Having a Day Job. I said as much to my Famous Friend when he began to complain about having nothing to do. Now, see, isn't that interesting? He was complaining about having nothing to do.

Me: "Having just experienced a phase of life where I had no job and no responsibilities, it was pretty much the best thing ever."

FF: "Yeah, but you were still working toward being a gemologist. You had a goal."

Maybe it's just a classic case of the grass always being greener. It's just that celebrity grass always seems like it's the greenest. Not to say that my Famous Friend envies my life (I wouldn't wish Schmells Schmargo fights on anybody), but does he envy parts of it? Parts of a regular person life? I think he does, and that makes me feel good inside. I'm still never going to be famous, but I'll settle for knowing that there are aspects of my life--even the mundane, lowly ones--that are enviable even to those who appear to have it all. I'll settle for my day about town with my famous friend, both of us singing in his car at the top of our lungs. I'll settle for that drive, the NYC skyline before us, and the way he said "Tali, sing girl!" when I hit the high note.

JUL
14

Disneyland Annual Pass: Yay or Nay?

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It's like this. I live pretty close to Disneyland. As in, I could drive there, like, every weekend if I wanted to. An annual pass seems like a no-brainer, as it should be for EVERYONE who lives in SoCal, but as I've asked around since being here, I've yet to find anyone who actually has one. Worse, the one person I found who used to have one said she didn't use it enough to make it worth it. For clarification purposes, depending on the level of pass you buy, you have to go between 2 and 5 times in order to actually make it a savings. And from where I'm sitting (less than an hour from the Magic Kingdom), I have a hard time believing that ANYONE could find themselves not using the pass enough to make it worth it. Still, though, it's a chunk of change, not to mention that I don't have a plus one. A solo Disney trip is fine once, twice if need be, but every time you go?? Is that depressing? Maybe. Less fun? Probably. But is it worse than not going at all? Doubtful.

There's just such a stigma around "aloneness" and I know I should be doing what I can to push back. I hate that I feel, for lack of a better term, "lame" when at dinner or a movie by myself. Partly because it sucks to be reminded that pretty much everyone else in the world apparently has a date that night, and partly because I picture all the couples and families thinking pitiful, tragic thoughts about the Alone Girl in the corner. I know no one actually thinks about you even half as much as you think they do, but my natural instinct is to avoid doing social things alone. Which means that sometimes I miss out on something I really want to do/see. And isn't that a lot more pitiful and tragic than doing something alone? Yes. Yes, it is. I think I just made up my mind about the annual pass.

JUL
06

Let Freedom Ring

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I look at it differently now. Freedom. I'm older, yes. I'm wiser, yes. But mostly, I attribute this different perspective to the fact that my brother joined the Airforce a few years ago. So now I've got some skin in the game, see. And trust me, it makes a difference. Because how many of us have ever had to give up anything for our freedom? Even one single thing. I visited Arlington National Cemetery recently with a friend whose brother died while serving as an Airforce fighter pilot. It's not that I think my brother will meet the same fate, but he could. And that's a possibility that the average family in this country doesn't have to grapple with. To be honest, it tears at my heart a little every day.

Selfishly, I wish my brother had a different occupation, but I know I will be forever grateful for his service because it has changed the way I feel about our country and the people who serve to protect it. I can't hear the national anthem now without crying, nor can I see the face of a military member without seeing my brother. And especially having so recently driven across the expanse of the entire nation in a matter of days, I've been reminded just how much we have to protect. I know I'm a few days late, but to all who serve this nation, to their families, and to the families of those brave men and women who have paid the ultimate price, I say thank you. I am so proud to be an American.