Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Proud to be Feared

When I was a kid, my uncle was in a production of Pinocchio where he played the bad guy. I was young enough that I no longer remember the performance, but I do have a clear memory of my reaction to my poor uncle. I wouldn’t go near him and hid behind my parents when he tried to give me a hug.

Before the show he had been my uncle, after he was the jerk who went after that nice wooden boy.

My reaction to this performance, while it did make me a little wary of my uncle, did not put me off the idea of acting. I wanted to be part of the story and what better way was there than to perform it? More than that, what better way was there to get the stories in my head out where the people could hear them? You guessed it, there wasn’t. At least not that I could find at the time. So, I entered into the time honored tradition of kids all over the world: I made up plays, coerced my sister and friends into being in them and forced our families to watch. (For which I offer up my sincerest apologies.)

The writing was, not to put too fine a point on it, a little raw. Not quite up to my full potential. It was bad. No, it’s insulting to bad things to compare them to my theatrical works. I don’t even think “abysmal” does justice to those shows.

Needless to say, it is a testament to unconditional love that my parents didn’t leave me staked to a tree in the front yard after sitting through one of these productions. Let alone, the dozens I put them through.

Eventually I realized that perhaps these plays were slightly counterproductive. I decided to try something a little more mainstream. Acting at the local YMCA. I was in sixth grade when I performed in my first show there, Amahl and the Night Visitors. I was a shepherd with one line. Something about pomegranates.

And it was glorious.

Standing in front of those, maybe, thirty people, I knew there was no going back. It was in my blood. And two years later, when I played the Wicked Witch of the West, I got to watch kids hide behind their parents from me after the show. One gentleman carried his daughter over and said, “If you don’t behave, we’re going to have her come babysit you.”

I’d never been so proud.

Side note: For all of you who were worried, years after the Pinocchio debacle, my uncle had the cast of another show he was in sing “Happy Birthday” to me backstage. So, we’re all good now.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Why Not Me??

Recently, I saw a preview for The Avengers, so I’ve been rewatching the superhero movies that have already come out in preparation. And reflecting on my unfulfilled desire to fly or shoot ray beams out of my eyes or... something.

When I was probably around eight, I started telling my sister I had X-Ray Vision. We’d be sitting in the back seat, on the way to Grandma’s and I’d lean over and say, “There’s Grandma’s house!” She’d squirm around trying to see it and I’d say regretfully, “Oh, that’s right. I have X-Ray Vision. You don’t. Well, we’ll be there soon.” I had no idea if this was true, no concept of distance. Most of the time, my X-Ray Vision must have come with some sort of magnification quality, because I always said this when we were on the highway, not in the residential area that was actually around her house. Regardless, the effect was the same. For a short period of time, I was able to convince my sister that I had superpowers and if she believed it, then maybe it was true. I so wanted it to be true. And thus began my lifelong yen to become a superhero.

I had my brother tell me all the comic book stories. I watched all the movies. Read a few of the books. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, the X-Men, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Buffy, the Incredibles, the Phantom, the Green Lantern, the students of Sky High….I loved them all. But each time I walked out of the theater, or turned off the TV, I thought, Why not me?

I’d be a great superhero. I enjoy costuming, so that wouldn’t be an issue. I think I’d opt for a full face covering mask. I’ve tried parting my hair different ways and people always know it’s me. And while a partial mask would be fine with strangers, if I ever had to help out anyone that I knew, I don’t think they’d be fooled just because they couldn’t see the skin around my eyes.

I also wouldn’t wait around until some big personal tragedy struck. As soon I found out I could do super things, I’d be out there doing them. And I think here is the main reason why I have not had epic powers bestowed upon me.

I want it too badly. It would be too much fun for me and, let’s face it, I’d probably tell my family, friends and anyone else who would listen, thus rendering that mask I would so painstakingly construct fairly useless. I don’t have the right sense of gravity for the superhero trade.

My understanding of this, of course, does not lessen the yen. I continue to look for ways to gain superpowers and have no plans of stopping. In the meantime though, I trust that somewhere out there is a reluctant individual with a radioactive arachnid collection or a gamma radiation experiment or an alien baby or just some good, old fashion, multi-million dollar gadgets who is paving the way for me.

Until then, I’ll be content with trying to convince my sister I can move things with my mind.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Stationary Bike

The other day Roomie and I were driving over to school. We passed a row house with a bike on the porch. Generally speaking, this is not strange. Lots of city dwellers choose the bicycle as their mode of transportation. Cyclists are cursed by drivers and pedestrians alike, so, at times I feel quite bad for them. (Unless I’m walking and they’re taking up the full sidewalk – Ride in the street, buddy! – or I’m driving and they’re using up a lane, making my max speed 13 miles an hour – Seriously? You can’t ride on the sidewalk?!?)

But all this is beside the point. We were talking about this specific bike on this specific porch. The thing that made Roomie and I take note was that it was a stationary bike.

See, I always thought the purpose of the stationary bike was to get bike-like exercise whilst avoiding the elements. Apparently the owner of this particular bike (who in my mind is name Milton – or Milty – and has “cool guy tips”) does not agree with that thought process. From where we were sitting, the bike looked to be in good repair and the porch did not appear to be a catch-all for random objects. So, I’m left to believe that Milty uses this bike, despite it being rather chillsome out. What with winter and all.

This, of course, led me to wonder why a person might make this choice. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Milty returned home after yet another stressful attempt at exercise. In an expression of his frustration, his helmet was catapulted across the room.

“Everyone else outside is such a pain in the neck!” Reining in his fury, he walked over to the iguana tank to feed Dreyfus. “Drivers honk at me, people on the sidewalks yell. I’m just trying to be healthy, people! Man, they really burn my biscuits! But what else can I do?”

And then light shone down from above. Or it could have just been the way the light from the iguana heat lamp bounced off Milty’s wrist reflectors. Either way, inspiration struck.

“I know! A stationary bike! But not inside. I’m not going to be one of those gym-bodies. How lame are they? On the porch. I can enjoy the city sounds and the brisk air and no one will yell at me. Or try to pelt me with chewing gum, like that one lady. And you know what else, Dreyfus? If the cars drive by fast enough, I might even feel like I’m moving!”

The sheer brilliance of his plan astounded him. The very next day Milty bought his stationary bike and the rest of his afternoons went a little like this:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

All the Best Intentions

I was re-reading this awesome post the other day and started thinking about the stories I used to tell my little sister.

I knew from the day she was born that I was being given a big responsibility. I had to be able to answer any question she asked me for the rest of time. That was my duty as the older sister. And I would not shirk it.

In the beginning it was easy. “What’s that?” “The cat.” “What’s that?” “A swing.” “What’s that?” “The cat.”

But as she got older, they got more challenging. One day, while we were sitting in the back of the car on the way home from grandma’s she turned to me and said, “Sometimes when I lay down, I hear this beating. Bum bum bum. Like that. What is it?”

A question I had been dreading. I couldn’t tell her the truth. What I knew, deep in my gut, that sound was. I heard the sound so many times before and each time it struck fear into my very heart.

It was the marching of the evil green guards of the Wicked Witch of the West coming to grab us and lock us in her tower. Under the constant supervision of her evil flying minions we would never see our home or family again.

That’s what that sound was.

But looking down into her trusting, big blue eyes, I knew I couldn’t tell her the truth. Not this time. Being a fast thinker, I began to spin a tail of wonder. I spoke with such confidence that she never dared question the truth of my words.

“We have little people living inside our bodies and they like to throw parties. That sound you’re hearing? That’s the drummer in their band.”

Once I got started, it was hard to stop.

“And when you have something to drink, they slide down your throat like a water slide! And when your stomach makes noise, it’s cause they’re riding the roller coaster that’s down there. Yeah! You have a whole amusement park inside and they’re having so much fun! Here put your ear next to mine so that our people can talk to each other for a little while. You won’t hear them because they’re so small and their voices are tiny.”

We sat there for the ride with our little ears pressed up against each other.

She never asked me the question again. And I felt good about myself. Proud that I managed to shield my baby sister from the horrible truth. Instead I gave her a world of joy and magic and parties.

Satisfied that her innocent mind was saved, I continued to plot strategies to thwart the Witch’s vile plans – sticking my figurine of the Witch in a drawer at night, making sure that when we slept both my sister and I were fully covered in the magically protecting blankets I enchanted myself, etc.

Years later I found out that the reason that she never asked about it again was because my answer had scared the flibbertyjibbets out of her. Apparently, the thought that she was filled with carnival machinery and maniacal party animals did not provide the comfort I hoped for.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Melodies of Madness

For me, there’s nothing that can lift my mood faster than music. I generally like to listen to it wherever I am, which can be mildly problematic. Mostly for those around me. I have the tendency of singing along without realizing it.

For this, I would like to issue a blanket apology to any coworkers who have ever happened by me while I’ve been in the zone.

When I realize I’m doing this, I’ll turn the music off in an effort to avoid further embarrassment. This does not, however, silence the constant soundtrack I have running in my head. More often than not, just one or two lines of a variety of songs. Tunes that burrow in with such ferocity it would take high grade explosives to get them out.

Yesterday was one of those days were my head music was at its height.

5:05 – Alarm goes off.

Far too early.

Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs of angry men! It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again!

Okay. I saw that show almost a year ago. I need to stop singing this.

7:29 – At my desk.

When the beating of the heart echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes! Will you join in my crusade? Who will be strong and stand with –


9:04 – Sending my roommate a message.

- the music of a people who will not be slaves again! When the beating of the heart -

Me: “Give me a song to get Les Mis out of my head, please.”
Her: “CEE LO.”
Me: “You’re mean.”
Her: “It’ll work though.”
Me: “I know.”
Me: “I wouldn’t go that far.”

I see you driving round town with the girl I love and I’m like F –

Really not work appropriate.

11:18 – Walking down the hallway.

I guess the change in my pocket wasn’t enough and I’m like F –

Damn it.

12:34 – Eating lunch.

Guess she's an X-box and I'm more an Atari –


1:53 – Desk bound once again.

- change in my pocket wasn’t enough and I’m like -

No. No. NO. Think of another song. Any other song. Bring Les Mis back. Why can’t I think of any of the words to Les Mis? OK, I like a million songs. I can come up with another song.

What’s another song?!?

Turned up the collar on my favorite winter coat. This wind is blowing my mind. See the kids –

See the kids –

Uh oh. What are the other words? Quick, before Cee Lo comes back. Think faster! How is there nothing? OK, skip ahead. Skip ahead!

I’m starting with Man in the Mirror. I’m asking him to make a change. No message could have been any clearer. If you wanna make the world a better place, gotta look at yourself and make a change.

Ahhh, relief.

2:22 – Almost time to head home!

No message could have been any clearer. If you wanna make the world a better place, gotta look at yourself and make a change. I’m starting with the Man –

I really need to learn the rest of the words.

2:56 – In the car, rockin’ out to the tunes.

I see you driving round town with the girl I love and I’m like –

No. Stop. That song isn’t even on. You have music on. Sing that. Please.

3:57 – Must do homework.

I see you –

Nope. Not happening. Pick something completely different. Yes! That’s it.

Each time I see a crowd of people, just like a fool I stop and stare. It’s really not the proper thing to do, but maybe you’ll be there. I go out walking after midnight…

I know all the words. All. The. Words.


Now, concentrate on what you’re reading.

7:18 – Time for a little D.V.D. relaxation time.

Oh, McGarrett and Danno…so funny.

You can always count on me and I can count on you. Good times, bad times, in between, my friends will see me through.

What? Is that the theme song to The Babysitter’s Club T.V. show? Yes. I believe it is. Okay…. But why?

9:07 – Still with the T.V. watching.

We’ve been having wonderful times every day. All together, singing our song. Growing in every way. Say hello to my friends – BABYSITTER’S CLUB!

All right, no need to scream it. Wait! Hawaii Five-0! Of course! The episode with both Stacey and Dawn from The Babysitter’s Club movie. Sure, that episode was on months ago and is not even part of the same season that I’m currently watching, but whatever. The mental leap isn’t that far. All makes sense.

Ahhh, that’s a relief. Would have driven me nuts.

Say hello to the people who care. Nothing’s better than friends – BABYSITTER’S CLUB! Cause you know that your friends are always there.

But you can stop now.

10:49 – Bed time.

Nothing’s better than friends – BABYSITTER’S CLUB!

Nuh-uh. No singing. Sleepies.


All together singing our song. Growing in every way.

I said no more.


I see you driving round town with the girl I love and I’m like F –


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rebel Bases and Roller Blades

I have not always been successful at hiding my crazy when it came to movies. For one thing, there was the stage I went through, ages 10-14, where I would voluminously sob at any quasi emotional moment on screen. Then there was the fact that I could already hear the dialogue, so I needed to come up with a different way to wiggle into the narrative.

I, naturally, went the road of dress up.

One of my purest loves was, and continues to be, Star Wars. I saw them for the first time when they were rereleased in the theaters in the late nineties and my heart was claimed.

Anyway, my mom comes home from work one day in the middle of April to find me watching Empire Strikes Back for the umpteenth time. And dressed like Princess Leia. Not Princess Leia with the buns. Of course not, that’s not accurate to Empire. I was Princess Leia on Hoth. All white garb, gray boots, and hair braided (not well, but the attempt was there). My father, having innocently been going about yard work, did not realize I’d been turning our TV room into a rebel base.

We laugh about it now, but there is still a trace of terror in my parents’ eyes when it’s mentioned.This horror did not, however, prevent them from taking pictures of my follies. And thus my efforts to get closer to the story were immortalized.

I already admitted the braids weren't good. Give me a break.

I think however, that more than my foray into Alliance leadership, the period with the most potential for embarrassment was that in which I was obsessed with The Mighty Ducks. Not because there is anything wrong or innately mortifying about these films. Far from it. I continue to stalwartly support them. If for nothing other than the following reasons:

- Everything I know about hockey comes from those movies.
- "When the roosters are crowing and the cows are spinning circles in the pastures?..... Ducks fly together!"
- Gunnar Stahl's reincarnation as the Varsity Goalie in D3.
- The fact that when I was out watching U.S. play hockey in the 2010 Olympics, the people around me chanted "Quack, quack, quack" almost as much as "U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A."

So, clearly, it’s not the movie choice that embarrasses me. Nope. They’re classics. It is the fact that I felt to truly complete the movie watching experience I had to wear roller blades, carry a hockey stick and don my brother’s umpire gear (the closest thing I could find to a hockey uniform in the house). That’s what gives me pause.

Over the years, I managed to quiet my sobs to a dignified single tear rolling gracefully down my cheek (unless we’re talking about Homeward Bound. When Shadow comes over that hill, I’m still a total goner. But…you know…that’s respectable). I’ve traded out my dress up for a habit of yelling at characters on TV and in movies. It requires less time and preparation.

But if I suddenly found myself eleven years old again, knowing what I know now……….well, I’d probably just pull on the umpire mask, grab a box of tissues and press play.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Creepy Crawlers

I don’t kill bugs.

I hate them. Especially spiders with their spindly legs, shifty little bodies and unnatural speediness. It’s the speed that really gets me. Nothing should move that fast.

Normally, I consider myself a fairly brave person. I think I can handle most of what life throws my way. Unless it’s bugs. Then I turn from a normal woman into a shrieking banshee. And the mind-numbing panic doesn’t go away once the bug is gone. No. That stays, accompanied by the feeling that I’m covered in a million creepy crawlers.

But I don’t kill bugs.

And I blame books for this. Specifically, K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs. I loved those books. So much so that I still scan construction sites as I drive by for possible downed alien ships.

Anyway, more than once that scrappy group of kids morphed into insects. Since reading that, whenever I go to kill a bug, my brain yells Wait! How can you be sure that’s not a person fighting an alien take-over in there? I find myself unable to complete the crushing.

So, I end up standing their like an idiot with a plastic cup and a napkin. Positioning the cup over the bug is bad enough, but then getting close enough to slip the napkin under the cup while keeping the bug inside? Let’s just say it involves quite a bit of undignified whimpering. Once that is complete, I now have to get the contraption outside. I then chuck the cup with all my might – generally this means it lands about a foot and a half in front of me – and go running back into my apartment where I do what I’ve termed the “icky-creepy-crawler-dance.” It’s not until later, when I’ve given the bug plenty of time to escape that I go retrieve the cup. Or, better yet, get someone else to get the cup to ensure that the crafty creepy-crawler isn’t lying in wait for my return.

I’m actually a very logical person. I know that bugs are just bugs, not Animorphs. I rationalize my continued inability to crush insects through a belief that once outside the bug finds its buggy friends and recounts my act of mercy. They dance together and sing of my benevolence, agreeing that because of my altruistic spirit, they will do their best to stay out of my way.

See? Logical.

Because I know that bugs are not people in morph. I do.

Except, maybe....

Friday, January 20, 2012

Probably Should've Read It First

People like to talk about books. It’s common ground. You may know absolutely nothing about the person sitting next to you on the plane, but you’ve read the book they’re reading. Instant conversation starter. Find out that you share the same opinions on the plot points and character development? Best-ies for life. Or, for the very least, the duration of the flight.

Even if you are not the kind of person who enjoys mid-air chats with strangers, you probably can’t prevent someone from talking to you about your reading material if it’s something they’ve read, as well. The reason for this is very simple. The book may have gone through a plethora of stages before ending up in your lap -- author to agent to editor to publisher -- all these different hands involved in making what you now hold. But this fades away once you’ve read it.

The story touched you and now it’s yours.

Which for some, depending on personality and level of connection to the book, makes it nearly impossible not to discuss it when you spot a person who may share your feelings. This leads to a great many conversations with the potential for immediate connection or soul-sucking awkwardness. Even with the SSA risks, many find it difficult to forgo the chance to chat about something that is simultaneously personal and communal.

I do offer one friendly warning: Be careful of exercising ownership over books you have not actually read.*

Last spring, I went to see a production of Les Miserables. Needless to say, the soundtrack has been playing, on and off, in my head ever since. Particularly now that there are more articles coming out about the movie version.

Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs of angry men!

Yeah. I hear you. Now, if you could stop singing them in my cranium, I would greatly appreciate it.

I went to use the restroom at intermission. The line was characteristically daunting, but I prevailed! A fact that I am extremely grateful for, otherwise I would have missed the following conversation between the two women behind me.

Woman 1: “The play does a really good job of squeezing a lot of the book’s plot in. They definitely left stuff out, but you’d have to. It’s like making War and Peace into a play. The book is huge.”

Woman 2: “Oh, you’ve read Les Mis?”

Woman 1: (pause) “No, but I’ve seen it and.... it’s like.... a really big book.”

I’m assuming that Woman 1’s thought process was, Uh oh, this person actually read the book. I’m not going to know what to say when she starts talking about it. Better come clean. Woman 2 had not, in fact, read the book, her boyfriend had. She wasn’t going to quiz Woman 1, but merely confirm that she heard the book was quite intimidating.

When Woman 1 realized this she prolonged the awkward exchange, trying to explain that she has always wanted to read Les Mis. Really. She just hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

Finally, the line came to an end and these two strangers were able to go their separate ways, both probably equally relieved. And leaving me with a shining example of why, as tempting as it is to claim intellectual prowess through literature, it’s generally better to wait until you have the opportunity to discuss a book you actually have read.

* OK, don’t really be too careful about this. Such caution would severely limit overhearing conversations like the one found above. Which would be less fun.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Mouth Moves When She Reads"

When we were kids, my sister went through a “Harriet the Spy” phase in which she took notes on the family in a journal. I later found out her comments about me were “My sister’s mouth moves when she reads” and “My sister slurps when she eats cereal.” I’ve managed to cut the sound effects out of my breakfast, but I’m pretty sure the other observation still stands.

I realized pretty quickly in life that it wasn’t enough for me to simply hear the story. I had to be part of it.

When it comes to reading, I always prefer when I'm alone. It's not because I lack concentration when other people are around. This is, thankfully, an ability I possess. I credit this to two young gentlemen with whom I spent many an afternoon waiting for the bus. While I whiled away the minutes reading, they did their utmost to distract me. Running around in circles, nudging me as they went by. Yelling – sometimes words, sometimes just sound. They were unsuccessful in their quest, though their persistence was admirable. Thanks to their efforts, I came out of elementary school with a knack for zoning out everything around me as soon as there was a book in my hands.

More than one teacher told my parents that I needed to stop reading under the desk while they were going over the lessons. I was deaf to the warning. When my parents were finally able to talk me into going to the school roller skating party, I stuck a book in my coat, found an empty corner and had a lovely evening.

No, my desire to read in solitude does not spring from an issue in concentration, but because I want to hear what the lines really sounded like. The dialogue on the page is so real to me that it has always seemed wrong that it should sound only in my head. So I started, and have continued, to do the conversations out loud, often including accents. Sometimes I choose one character and do only their voice. Other times, I have to be everyone.

All in all, it just seems like a better idea to do this in the privacy of my own room. People get nervous when they’re stuck next to someone who is holding all sides of a multi-person conversation. Go figure.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I love stories. They don’t have to be in the form of well written literature. Epic tales, sweet romances, heart wrenching dramas – sure. But also office anecdotes, clearly fabricated accounts of why the person I’m meeting is late and the end of whatever the weird guy behind me on line is talking about. I love them all.

When I was a kid, we went to see Little Women in the movie theatre. I had read the book and loved it, so was naturally excited to see it unfold on the screen. There were certainly differences – things left out, things added in – as there are in all book-to-movie adaptations, but it thrilled me.

There is this one scene after Jo moves to the city. She’s sitting in a room with a number of men discussing politics and offers up her opinions on the matter. One gentleman comments that she should have been a lawyer. To this she responds, “I should have been a great many things.”

That idea always stuck with me. I wanted to be a great many things. At first, I thought that while I would be a lot of them, I probably wouldn’t have time to be all of the things I wanted to be. A little while later, I realized I could be every single thing I dreamed of. I could live a million
different lives in a million different places, simultaneously. All I needed was a good story.

Since that realization, I’ve had a myriad of careers, some related to what I actually do, most completely different. I traveled to places I’ve never been and revisited those I have (in a more fiscally responsible sort of way). I’ve been born. I’ve died – sometimes quickly, sometimes not. I’ve vanquished evil and been in two places at once. I’ve had a million different
names and look forward to having a million more.

I figure before I embark on my next many adventures, I ought to check out the lives I’ve already lived and I totally think you should join me. Not just as a passenger on my weird train of remembrance, but on your own. What’s your story and how have other stories contributed to it?

While you’re thinking about that, here’s mine. Welcome to My Countless Lives.