Tuesday, November 29, 2005

It's Tuesday and I'm pausing work to eat my lunch, sushi courtesy of my company, listen to what Pandora has in store for me, and type a blog entry. Work isn't the best place to blog, as I'm in "work" mode, but hopefully the food and sounds will buffer that. There, I just slid off my shoes. Now we're talking.

As I said, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I drove down with my mom and Jack to their friends' house in Prince Frederick, Maryland. They are the same people who were gracious enough to host my mom's birthday party. I was glad to be a passenger because I could look at the gorgeous countryside and fall foliage. Occasionally, I'd catch glimpses of people enjoying the holiday on their vast acreage that country living provides. A kid that looked around twelve years old was doing dirt bike tricks on his homemade course, mini-hills and all, flying into the air in the crisp fall weather. I could tell just by looking at him that he was having one of those "it's good to be me, right here, right now" moments. I could practically feel the exhilaration he felt and smell the air that he did as he flew. I envied him, as it brought back memories of the freedom I felt when catching my own air on the neighbor's trampoline, flying high in the air, unencumbered for those few seconds. The trampoline stood on a hill that looked over a vast grassy field that spanned on both sides of a tree lined creek. When you flew, it was like you were flying stories up in the air, not feet. I was fearless, so I'd jump as high as I could, flipping in layouts and twists in the air, sometimes choosing to land on my back, or stomach, but mostly on my feet. I always hoped for that time that the gods would smile on me and I'd remain airborne and take off across that field like Superman.

Another family we passed stood outside frying a turkey. Two men, wearing protective gloves and aprons did the deed, standing in a tree filled yard and watching that fryer steam and spit. I could just imagine the women inside doing their bit and the delicious smell of that turkey. Another vignette was a brown Labrador carrying a very large branch in his mouth, looking down a sloped hill at an unseen playmate.

We arrived at Patty and George's house, who have a great restored old house with a barn in the backyard. The house is decorated with wonderful antique furniture and feels warm and welcoming when you walk in, rooted in history like the people that live there. Patty's family goes back several hundred years in the region and in Massachusetts, and the family name can be seen on roads and maps. They have another property in Ipswich, MA, and of course the beautiful rowhome across from my mom and Jack. They are sweetest, funniest people, and Patty's son who is my age and lives in a house across the street from them, joined us for dinner. It was a perfect time, and a perfect setting for Thanksgiving. The house is just one of those that looks like the ones in old Christmas tales. Homey, happy, warm, and traditional.

Before dinner, George and I went treasure hunting in the woods. Last time I was there, he told me about the old cars that were dumped in the woods. Back in the day, and I mean way back, people drove their cars in the woods and left them there. Several decades later, they remain. George, who is British, brilliant, interesting, and hilarious offered to show me where they were. We put our coats back on and off we went into the woods, which is a large part of their property. We navigated through thorned vines, branches, fallen trees and ankle deep leaves to find the lost treasures. One was a Ford Fairlane, the other a Studebaker, a Plymouth Fury, and a convertible, 1950's chrome grinning up at us from their leafy sodden beds. From feet away they were hard to see, and scattered around the forest. Most of the exteriors had turned to rust, but several parts were in really good condition. A chrome fin there, a bumper on another one. The model name in chrome proudly displayed on the hood, some interiors, and deflated white wall tires. Steering columns, and even a speedometer that read 15,558. We dug around and George pointed out and identified the rusted innards. One of them was one of the first cars to get power steering, dating it in the early 1950's.

I found an old Listerine bottle with the brand embossed in the glass. I kept it, as it was very cool. We made our way back after our trip through automobile history and my mom had a cosmopolitan waiting for me. We gathered in the kitchen until dinner was ready, then moved to the living room where we ate, talked, laughed, learned, and most important, shared.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I'll have more to write about my wonderful day today, but this one is just for you readers.

Thank you so much for all your kind letters through the years and for the sharing of your lives with me simply because I have a public blog. It is truly humbling. I'm just an imperfect person who happens to write about things. To think that is worthy of the letters that I've gotten absolutely floors me.

If I haven't written you back, it isn't because I haven't read your email or take it with a grain of salt. It's because I simply haven't gotten to you and a simple "thanks for writing" isn't enough for me to send to someone who took the step to offer your support, advice, and gift of your wisdom and experience to a complete stranger. Like so many things, wanting to write a worthy response freezes me into inaction or countless times of deleting email that I begin. Funny, because so many of you have told me you've done the same thing when writing to me. I promise I'll not do that anymore if you do the same.

So, to all of you, and particularly those of you who write whom I haven't responded to yet, this is a thank you on this day of Thanksgiving.

*Clink*

That's the sound of my cosmopolitan against the monitor as I toast to you all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

For those of you who are traveling on Wednesday... Better you than me.

Friday, November 18, 2005

I joined my former Barnes and Noble coworkers at the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire midnight showing and had a great time. Before that, I joined my current coworkers at another benefit that we hold yearly for the Ella Thompson fund. Our actors work as bartenders and serve it up to the customers. The cover charge is ten dollars and all tips go to the fund. To add to the pot, there was a raffle. It was crowded, great fun, and I managed to get my customary cosmopolitan in, even though I was there for a relatively short time. Everyone was having a great time, lively chatter filled the room mixed with the low bass of the music, laughter, clinking glasses, shout outs, and bar stools being pushed across the floor. Anwan Glover, who plays Slim Charles on our show asked me if he could get my drink. I told him I was already helped, then giggled at the thought of the 6'5 Slim Charles making me a girlie drink. Instead, I had one of the regular bartenders make it and spared him the task.

We had a great turnout with the actors and it was just a fun, good-natured time, all while helping the charity. The actors all looked so cute behind the bar, for lack of a better word, but that just fits.

Afterward, it was wizards, witches and dragons. We got our seats early and it was good to chat and laugh with my old coworkers from the bookstore as we waited for midnight to pass and the lights to darken. The movie was great of course, with both funny and dark moments in it. It had been a long time since I read Goblet of Fire, so I didn't remember a lot of the plot points. It amazes me how the visual artists who work on that film so aptly interpret the scenery and visuals from the book. It's as if they took it out of what I imagined when I read the books. I attribute that to some great descriptions and storytelling by Ms. Rowling.

I got home at 3:30 in the morning and am sure to be feeling it very soon. It wasn't fun getting up this morning, and even less fun to step outside into the cold air. Winter weather took a while to get here, but I do think it's finally arrived. I'm not ready for it. Not at all.

Neither were the cats.

For the first time, they decided to forgo their shadowing of me and chirping and chattering at my ankles as I readied for work. Instead, they stayed huddled on the bed and looked at me like I was a complete asshole for getting out of that perfectly good warm spot. I didn't disagree with them. The first really cold morning is always a shock. Soon, we'll be back to our routine.

We have three work days next week and then two paid days off for Thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to the break and having a few days to sleep in. I also meet with Jack's friend over that weekend about my personal projects. It should be very interesting and I hope to gain some insight into the steps that I need to take. Jack is going to accompany me, but as he said, it will be my show.

I'm ready to be the Master of Ceremonies.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Another beautiful weekend. I spent it catching up on things to do and putting some money where my mouth is about personal projects. I have a feeling that will go in ebbs and flows, but my work is sure to dictate that.

Yesterday, I saw the neighbor's children playing on the sidewalk in the fallen leaves and it brought back memories. The toddler sat in the pile while her five year old sister swept the pile higher and higher. I asked big sister if she was going to bury little sister, and she looked at me with a devilish grin and nodded. Mom went inside and then came back out with her camera. As little sister basked in her prison made of foliage, big sister swept and swept with her little broom. The pictures will be a classic childhood memory that so many of us have shared.

When I was growing up and heard my dad raking the lawn, I'd jump in the piles of leaves that he had heaped around the yard. I'd lay on my back and let him bury me, seeing the silhouette of the rake against the sky and my dad smiling as he dumped the rust, orange, brilliant yellow, and brown colored leaves on top of me. I then picked them up by armful and put them in the wheelbarrow, trailing my dad as he walked them to the street and dumped them. Back then, because the streets were wide and houses far enough apart, it was legal to burn the piles of leaves. I could ride my bike down the streets on a crisp fall day and see several piles of leaves smoldering. The rich smell of the burning leaves is something that I remember to this day and associate with fall. It was almost an unofficial fall offering, burning leaves and sending smoke to the sky. Remembering this has given me an idea. Perhaps I will collect some leaves and burn them in my fireplace, just to recreate that wonderful scent.

That, and have it as an offering, a symbol of change.

Last night, I did another clutter purge and found a statement from a grocery store where I shopped in Los Angeles, stating that one of my checks had bounced. It was from years ago, during the most dire time of the crash when managing my money was the last thing on my mind. It was embarrassing, because I was a regular customer at that store and had shopped there during my flush times. It was as if they were witnessing my demise or what I thought at that time was the reveal of my true self. I bring it up, because I have no idea why I kept that piece of paper. Probably, at the time I thought I needed it around to remind me of where I'd been, or punish myself for having been there in the first place. When I saw it last night, I knew at once there was no reason to hold on to anything physical from that time of my life. That is, the bad physical things from the dark times during 2001 and 2002.

While most of the clutter was going into a large garbage bag, that went into the fireplace. What a great feeling to see that notice twist and burn. I said softly as the printed letters were burnt into smoldering embers, "never again," and "fuck you."

I think I will look for other bad physical memories like that and burn them, then make my foliage smudge and burn that afterward to cleanse it with the memory of a good time. Therefore, cutting the threads of that spider web that holds me in its snare. There is no reason to have physical ties to "the bad," and I'm sure I'll be surprised and appalled to see what I've held on to because I didn't trust myself to remember on my own that I never want to fall that hard again.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Last night, I went to dinner with Jack at the Baltimore Museum of Art. I enjoyed the first meal in awhile where I felt that I had eaten way too much. However, it was well worth it because the food was good, as was the atmosphere. You can't beat eating among art and knowing that Monet's London paintings are hanging just one floor above you. To our left, three large groups ate and talked, all dressed well and happy. I asked the waiter what was going on, and he said that it was a rehearsal dinner. Jack and I spent some time trying to pick out the bride and groom to be. It added a positive energy that was infectious.

Anyway, we got into a wistful conversation about why I'm still dissatisfied with my accomplishments on the large scale. Oddly, I'd gotten into the same conversation with a coworker who is currently being coached by the creator of the show to be a writer, and has done some writing for the show already. We all have our measuring sticks to our accomplishments, I guess. Ironically, I've been enjoying watching the coaching he's been receiving and understand the logic of the things that he is given to do in the order that they are given. On his part, it's hard to be given just a little bit when you're among people who are doing what you want to do, whereas I see him in an incredible learning environment. He does too, but the wait is hard, which is understandable when you are ready to go for the whole thing and oh, so close.

Perhaps it is the change of seasons, but Jack and I had this same talk. He sees me as having incredible experience throughout my life and career, not to mention a top notch art education. He went through the people that I've met in my life and the things that I've done. And yes, I don't lose sight of that. I know, not many people were assistant to Mikhail Baryshnikov when they were nineteen years old. In fact, I may be the only one in the world. Few people have had BMW patent one of their ideas, even less who weren't car designers. I was just a researcher with a great fucking idea. Few have worked on a team building a concept 7-series BMW at all. I have so many other accomplishments like that, and while I understand this and am very proud of them, it's hard sometimes to look back and feel like I've flown under the radar for all that time. I'm ready to take a risk with my ideas, and not doing so has been the source of that frustration and dissatisfaction. Especially, watching others comfortably flying above me. I'm not talking about doing what they are doing, but I want to be flying on that level doing my own thing. It's not writing, as for some reason that comes easy to me. Not just the writing part, but putting my neck out there for work. I don't get nervous when I'm assigned writing jobs, and once again, I've done them for top entertainment companies. I just start going and fly comfortably with that flock at a high altitude. I forget it's for money, and just get into the assignment.

What I've been frustrated with is that my experience has been working under someone else, and those accomplishments are buried under their name or company. I'm an entrepreneur at heart, and an incredibly hard worker, but when it comes to my own ideas I forget how to get from one step to the next. Now, if someone were to ask me for advice on their own projects, I'm a great information source. However, when I get to my own projects, that resourcefulness turns into a stopping point. With my work on this show, it's the first time I've been credited by name on my contributions. Still, it's under someone else's creation. One, by the way, that I'm thrilled and proud to be a part of, but the latter thought comes up when holding up that measuring stick.

So, under the Monet and among the chatter, we got to talking about how to get me from one step to the next, and he came up with the idea of me talking to a very accomplished friend of his who has been through the steps that I want to go through. I'm ready for action and need to take that risk. This person is a Harvard graduate, but Jack, a Cornell graduate told me not to hold that against him. He told me he would call this person and arrange a lunch, so that I can finally work on getting some concrete answers. My ideas have been well received before or created in some way while I've sat on my ass working for other people. It's time I stamp my name to them and get them rolling. For one of them, I even created a bang-up presentation. Time to get printing on that color printer, I guess.

And about that measuring stick, I don't use it to measure myself against other people. I use it as a tool to ask me how I'm doing to measure myself against my own potential. Others around me who are operating at their best are a reminder for me to ask myself every now and then what I'm doing to achieve that.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I'm writing slightly hungover at work, taking a break for a few minutes. The hangover is mostly in the form of a little queasiness and a slight headache, but otherwise I'm ok. I am however, fighting off an overwhelming desire to fall asleep at my desk.

We hosted a benefit for Katrina victims and the Associated Black Charities last night that featured three bands out of New Orleans. The Iguanas, The Rebirth Brass Band, and The Subdudes. It was great fun, and always fun to see your coworkers out and well...not working. Anyone could attend for $50 a ticket, and the event was hosted by Wendell Pierce, who plays Bunk on our show. Lots of the cast showed up and a good time was had by all. I hadn't heard a lot of New Orleans inspired music and certainly not seen it live, so it was a new experience for me. All new sounds, which for me meant new sights as well.

When I first arrived at the club, I went straight to the bar and ordered, pop quiz folks... Okay, time is up. For those of you who guessed a Cosmopolitan, you get a gold star. Those of you who guessed anything else, see me after class as you will be scraping gum off the bottom of the desks. One of my coworkers sidled up to the bar beside me and ordered the same, then paid for both of us. The guy is Greek, an extraordinarily positive person and makes you smile when he enters the room. That is a gift. Even if you've never met him, he greets you like an old friend. The fact that he can proudly drink a Cosmopolitan makes me like him all the more.

All the crew who could attend, had their tickets paid for by the creator of the show, so we didn't get in for free. I was prepared to pay for my ticket, being that it was a benefit but it was taken care of. Very nice of him. At the end of the night, I ended up paying for only one of my own drinks, the second one was also bought by a coworker. Everyone was feeling festive and letting off steam, myself included.

The great part was the party. People were letting loose, bodies jiving to the music, blurs of movement on the dance floor and silhouettes against the lighted stage. An arm lifted over a head, a hat bobbing up and down, feet stamping to the rhythm in an odd but infectious New Orleans style goose step. I let the music pelt my body, absorbing the beats and deep vibrations of the bass; it found the alcohol and picked it up, twirling it around in a delirious dance.

I had a great time. And when I got home, slept very, very well.