So….

It’s been awhile, mi compadres.

Since we last chatted a lot of things happened. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and I finally finished the first draft of my wip (work in progress), which most definitely remains a wip, as I’m only too aware of how underdeveloped the antigonist is, how unearned elements of the climax are, how a few ideas are brought up and abandoned, like unfinished stories in a conversation. Some of these things will be easy fixes, some of them will not. And there are two long, deserty stretches were things get real boring, for a real long time. Not even really boring. They get real boring. That’s how intense the boring is.

Also, this book, or rather, this wip, it’s a strange little misfit creature. It’s got a lot of stuff in there that I think a lot of people are going to find alarmingly odd. It’s all stuff I like, or rather, find fascinating. Freaks and demonic possession and the nature of evil and the nature of good and Irish people and Percherons and books and 19th century poorhouses and lunatics and how one goes about getting better. I even put in one horse show. I wasn’t going to put in the horse show, but then I was like, screw it, it’s my book, I’ll put a horse show in it if I want to put a horse show in it. If it doesn’t work, I can always take it out later. It just seemed self-indulgent, the horse show. Although it does serve two important plot points, so it’s not gratuitous.

And like Liz Lemon, I want to go to there. There being, specifically, the National Horse Show as held in the second incarnation of Madison Square Garden in New York City. The National Horse Show, now in Lexington, Kentucky, remains a big deal today, but then it was even a bigger deal, in the same way all horse events were a bigger deal before the advent of the motor car. And here’s the thing, back in the day, those people liked to decorate with flowers like nobody’s business. We don’t do flowers today like they did then. Probably an issue of an expense, because the effect was so amazing.

I actually can’t find any of the pictures I want to find (typical) that shows the flower mania at its full extent, but here’s some other shots that give an idea of what it was like. Click here to see the first picture full size.

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National Horse Show, 1908

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National Horse Show, 1909. They went with ribbons this year.

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What people wore to the National Horse Show. It was a white tie event.

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What Madison Square Garden looked like in 1890.

What Madison Square Garden looked like in 1890.

So, long story short, I put it all into the book. And by book I mean, work in progress.

A Week Made of Win

Me, Winning. (Best caption I've ever written on this blog, I'm telling you what.)

It’s been a banner few days for me.

I won the Story Slam at McGhee’s, taking home a sweet gift certificate for dinner for two, complete with app/entree/dessert/drinks. Winning food! How awesome is that?!

The next day, I won poker, taking home a sweet twenty bucks. My last hand was an ace-high straight, and my hands were like that all night.

And then, I finally got to the bottom of my shoulder injury, and, yay! No surgery for me! When I got this news I was floating all day long. I was so, so relived.

All of this left me feeling pretty glorious, especially the stand-up win at McGhee’s. Evan, his mom and I had gone one night a couple months ago, stumbling across this open mic contest. I watched and listened, and thought, with much modesty and humility, I could totally win this.

And I totally did.

People asked me if I was nervous, or commented that it took bravery/courage/guts. My family though, they knew the truth. Giving me a stage and a microphone is like giving a kid a candy bar. Thing is, my mother was a dancer and my father used to go by the name, “Freddy the Fire Eater.”  He’d do tricks at parties with a mouthful of lighter fluid and a match. Performing is in my DNA.

So, you’d think I’d be on cloud nine, but I’m not. To be honest, this shoulder thing has got me down. I tried sorting it out today, and I realized I’m getting old. Not because I got injured. I’ve been injured plenty over the years. Concussions galore, broken toes at horse shows, broken back thanks to a jumping fall, bursitis in my hip from running, tendonitis in my right wrist that formed a giant, rigid bump that creeped people out when they looked at it. (So, you know, there was a plus side there.)

But this shoulder thing is the first injury I didn’t want to play through. Partly, that’s because it hurt in a way I found disturbing. Partly, because it always hurt. The bursitis would flare-up and then go away entirely, the shoulder was always letting me know it was there. And when the shoulder got angry – I’m not going to lie – it hurt pretty badly.  Bottom line – I didn’t want to mess with it.

Which isn’t like me. Growing up a horse girl, you’re inordinately proud of your battle scars, of your lack of judgment. You brag about things like, “I fell off and got a concussion but then I went into the championship class anyway and I won!” (I did this, FYI, back in the day.) Or you start riding a month after breaking your back because you have Regionals coming up and you know where your priorities stand. You certainly never stop to think things like, “Maybe I shouldn’t try to lift this giant weight over my head,” you just see if you can. 

And the thing is, despite whatever injuries came my way, I was always sure I’d bounce back, or that it wouldn’t make things worse to play through it. Now, I’m not altogether sure I will bounce back, and I definitely don’t want to play through it. Which is tough, because a big part of my self-identity is wrapped up in my willingness to say, “it’ll be fine,” and “I bet I can do more.”

To quote the Dude, “It’s a bummer, man.”

Happy 1102 Everybody!

 
Happy New Year!

So! 1102! Interesting things going on in Poland! Wladislaus might kick it, if so he'll be replaced by Boleslaw III. Also, stuff going on with the Crusades... Henry I is king of England... yep... 1102! Good times!

Here’s a pic I took of my friends on my lawn trying to spell 2011 with sparklers! Pop Quiz: How many advanced degrees does it take to spell 2011 correctly with sparklers? I don’t know, but it’s somewhere north of 8!

In any case, I hope 1102 is a great year for all my fanfreakingtastic readers! Thanks for sticking with me through 2010, or, you know, 1101, as the case may be.

A Lesson from Aunt Scary for All the Kids

(Note: Names of the innocent have been omitted. The name of the not-so-innocent has been altered.)

In my latest blog post, I mentioned an “unfortunate incident” that left me ordering orange juice at W hotel bar. As I look back, it occurs to me that perhaps some good can come out of my misfortune. Perhaps, through an edifying narrative, and then a handy dandy list of tips, I might save someone from going where I went. While I cannot say, Picard-like, it was a place no one has gone before, I can assure you it is a place no one wants to go. So! Without further ado, here is a lesson from Aunt Scary for all the kids.

I shall begin slightly before the beginning. On Tuesday, I was certain I was coming down with the 24 hour flu bug everyone has been getting around here. But by the afternoon I’d seemed to have shaken it off, and by Wednesday, I felt 100%. This was good news for me, as my good friend was having her holiday party Wednesday night, and I’d been looking forward to it for some time.

Upon arrival I found my friends ensconced in the kitchen. Among them was my bosom buddy, Rat Sick. “Hey, Fat Tick!” I said, “What’s on offer?” My good friend explained he’d recently gone on a trip, and was making Bloody Marys with a Fabulous Foreign Twist. The other option was mulled wine. I love mulled wine, but it doesn’t love me, and I’m all about making smart choices. “Sign me up for one of those Bloody Marys with a Fabulous Foreign Twist, Flat Mick, and make it snappy!”  

I enter this photo into evidence of me and my friend Bat Kick from the night in question. Please note how small those solo cups are!

As it so happened, Tatt Lick had these wee little solo cups, so small they were, like nothing I’d ever seen before. Moreover, my chum was only filling them three quarters of the way up. The Bloody Marys with a Fabulous Foreign Twist were spicy deliciousness, and the company was excellent. I chatted with old friends, made new ones, and everything seemed to be going splendidly. In retrospect, I can spot three warning signs that all was not as it seemed. Here, then, some advice from Aunt Scary for the next time you’re at a party.

  • Overeating – Look down at your plate. Whaddya have there, pardner? Is it your 3rd helping of the homemade Indian someone brought, a ham asparagus wrap, and two gluten free brownies? Stop. This is not a triumvirate of food items put together by a sober person.
  • Braggadocio – Are you cornering people in order to tell them about how your buddy Gat Wick is such a lightweight, whilst talking up your Irish Catholic drinking prowess? Guess what hot shot, you’ve just outted yourself as a lightweight, too. Good job.
  • Are You Literally Picking Up Small to Medium-Sized Men, Carrying Them to the Living Room, Then Spinning Them ‘Round and ‘Round? Congratulations, you’re hammered. No, child, I want no protests from you. Yes, it is fun to haul around adult men in a princess carry (right arm under shoulders, left arm under knees) and spin them around, but believe me when I tell you, this is not normal behavior. You are drunk.

(Note: While I only spun small to medium-sized men, I did make a good faith effort to carry around men from the 200+ bracket, it’s just I was unsuccessful in doing so.)   

Despite all of the above, I still thought I was a-okay until I arrived home. It was at this juncture that my body suddenly went to high alert. “Mayday! Mayday!” it screamed. “We’re going down!” As this was not my first rodeo, I knew emergency evacuations were in order. I went to bed, stomach empty, thinking I was okay.

That night, I dreamt of being in a European plaza. Anthony Bourdain was there, and I wanted to talk to him. However, these beautiful clear glass coolers of fruit and herb-infused water beckoned to me. I drank glass after glass of orange water, lemon water, mint water… the water was so delicious I could not stop drinking it, I could not leave it even for a moment, and so Anthony Bourdain sat, untalked to, at a table mere feet away.

And so you can see how the eternal widsom of the physical self outweighs that of the conscious mind. I’d made a mistake, kids. I had not rehydrated. And so I woke up feeling as though death himself waited outside my door. I will not give you the details, other than to say, I lost four pounds, was sick until 2pm, and finally, with much rejoicing, kept down a single piece of toast at 3pm. But holiday parties wait on no man, and so it was that evening, my friends, that we set off on our two hour drive to the W Hotel.

To wrap up! Warning signs are: Over-weird-eating, Bragging, Carrying Adult Men. Once it’s too late: Rehydrate before going to bed, lest you miss out on a conversation with Anthony Bourdain. Hey, don’t say your Aunt Scary never did nothin’ for ya!

A Line in the Sand of Cool

W Hotel

Looks like an ordinary hotel, right? Well, that's where you're wrong.

This last weekend my husband’s company had their annual Christmas party in Atlanta. The gathering spot, and site of almost all the weekend activities, was the Midtown W Hotel. I’ve never been to a W hotel, nor had I even heard of them, a fact greeted by much surprise from several friends, who all said, “Oh, I love W hotels!” The website showed a fairly swanky, urban place, and I looked forward to checking it out.

We arrived rather late on Thursday night with a co-worker of Evan’s. The outside was unassuming enough. We stepped through the sleek, glass Star Trek doors and entered a dark den of cool. Loud club music (UN-siss UN-siss UN-siss) played, lights danced over black walls, distressed concrete floors sat under our feet. Three desks, that both did and did not look like check-in desks, waited smugly in the corner for our approach. We shouted to the desk clerk (UN-siss UN-siss UN-siss) in order to be heard, got our room keys (and our very cool swag bags) and bolted for the elevators.

“Do you feel like this place is above our cool pay grade?” I said to Evan’s co-worker. “I think they should set up a force field around the outside, and only if you’re cool enough can you enter. I definitely think I would have been bounced back.”

The elevator doors opened. “Good Evening” said the mat on the elevator floor. “Huh,” I said. “Do you think they change out that mat three times a day?” I thought of the minimum wage worker whose job it was to change said elevator mats, and wondered how he or she felt about that.

Inside our room, which was spacious and lovely and had a great view, I found myself confronted by an aggressive faucet, made of metal blocks. “Go ahead,” it sneered. “Try to figure out how to make the water come out. I dare you.” Chimpanzee-like, I slapped at the metal blocks until water began to flow. I could not figure out how to make it hot. The shower, which had no door, similarly taunted me. “Are you cool enough to turn me on?” it demanded, like a high priced escort. “No, shower,” I immediately confessed, “I am not.” As it turned out, it was actually much more difficult to turn it off, an act requiring jet fighter-like precision in order to find just the right place to shut it down.

The Living Room

The Living Room. Note ceiling cut outs and chaise lounge swing.

We went back to the lobby bar, The Living Room, to meet Evan’s co-worker for a drink. On account of a misadventure the day before, I ordered an orange juice, and marveled at my surroundings. Above my head were oblong cut-outs, containing backlit pictures of trees photographed from below. It was pretty, but again I lacked the cool to truly understand the juxtaposition of the depiction of natural beauty alongside black, oval swings you were supposed to use like chaise lounges.

And this is when the people started arriving. A great herd of hipsters, the likes of which I’ve rarely seen in the wild, flooded through the doors. It was a herd of male hipsters, perhaps young bucks not yet ready to claim their own females. Their magnificent calves were caressed by the best skinny jeans money can buy, their ankles highlighted by upturned cuffs. Decorated with faux hawks and black framed glasses, sleek scarves and army jackets, one can only assume, from an anthropological perspective, that these displays were to assert dominance within the group.

Not that these were the first hipsters I’d ever seen. I actually count as one of my dearest friends a hipster. His name is Axel Gimenez. That is his actual name. Clearly, he had no choice. It was his destiny to become a hipster.

Soon the hipsters were joined by young businessmen in ties and expensive shoes, toting with them even more expensive women. The contest here was an interesting one, with each expensive woman trying to simultaneously show as much leg and as much cleavage as possible. Contrary to the hipsters, however, the expensive women hid their calves in giant, oddly fluffy boots.

Eventually, Evan’s co-workers arrived. These are all people I dearly love, and who I enjoy immensely. They are neither hipsters nor expensive shoe and tie-wearing young businessmen, though I don’t know if I’d call them exactly normal, either, which, coming from me, is a compliment. As we chatted in The Living Room, standing on the hard, distressed concrete floor, I watched the cocktail waitresses with pity. They were required to wear skintight black dresses, show much cleavage, and wear very high-heeled boots. I became concerned for these young ladies’ joints. “Sweetheart,” I wanted to say, “don’t you know what you’re doing to your knees?” I actually thought this, and in thinking it, became aware that I am now, officially, old.

The next morning I waited for the DING of the elevator. “Good Morning,” said the mat. Down in the lobby (UN-siss UN-siss UN-siss) I found another herd of hipsters cavorting in their natural habitat. I decided to text Axel. Here is an exact transcript:

Hipster

Representative hipster. Note the sleek calf endemic to this species.

ME: Dude, I am in ATL @ the W Hotel & I have found your people. There are Axels everywhere.

AXEL: I like the W Hotels.

ME: No kidding.

AXEL: I love the elevator mats.

ME: Here I thought you were unique, one of a kind, but there are millions of you, all here in Atlanta at the W Hotel.

AXEL: Disappointing, isn’t it?

After my text talk with Axel I took the complimentary car to the mall. The driver was the most wonderful man. He tried to make me sit in the back and I was like, “Can I sit up front with you? I can’t handle the backseat thing.” He laughed, and opened the front seat door for me. African-American, he had striking slate blue eyes, a genuinely happy smile, and plenty of time. He showed me around and we chatted about this and that.

As I was about to get out, his tone changed. “This is a drop off service only. You’ll have to take a cab back. Now, they’re gonna take one look at you, put the meter on, purposefully get stuck in traffic, and take you for all your worth. You tell them you want the flat rate to Midtown.”

Alarmed, I took in everything he said, grateful for the advice, but also wondering, “When did I become this uncool? Since when do people feel they need to give me advice on taking a cab? Am I wearing a sweatshirt with bumblebees on it?”

While at the mall, I watched The Fighter with Mark Wahlberg. HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. I love boxing anyway, always wanted to be a fighter myself, and the movie, on top of the guy’s advice, got my blood up. After the movie, I picked up two accessories for Evan’s (female) co-worker at Express. I got two because a placard said Buy 1, Get 1 Free. The woman rang it up as buy 1, get 50% off on the second. I called her out on it, she started to fight me, and I reached back, grabbed the placard, put it down on the counter and read it aloud, just in case she missed it, “Buy one, get one free.”

That victory behind me, I got a cab back. “I need the flat rate to Midtown!” I barked at the man. “Of course,” the cabbie said, confused. “I always do a flat rate to Midtown.”

By the time I arrived back at the W, (UN-siss UN-siss UN-siss) it had started to feel like home.